Di Maio defends Salvini over migrant detention probe

Interior minister Matteo Salvini does not need to resign over a judicial probe into the possible illegal detention and kidnapping of 177 migrants who he left stranded aboard an Italian coastguard ship amid a diplomatic standoff, deputy premier Luigi Di Maio stated on Monday.

"The investigation by prosecutors in the Sicilian city of Agrigento is a formality," Di Maio told Italian daily La Stampa.

"The government agreed with the choices (made by Salvini)...which were in the national interest," said Di Maio, who is welfare and industry minister.

The populist government would cooperate fully with the investigating Sicilian magistrates and "explain" the situation to them, Di Maio stated.

The rescued migrants were stuck on board the Diciotti vessel for ten days after they were picked up on 15 August in the Mediterranean and taken to the Sicilian port of Catania but refused permission to disembark until Saturday.

Italy had appeared to be in violation of the European convention on human rights, which states that any asylum seeker detained for more than 48 hours should be released and given the opportunity to apply for refugee status.

Albania will take 20 of the migrants, while Ireland will welcome 25 of them, Italy's populist government announced on Saturday. The Italian church said it would take in the rest to “put an end to this dramatic situation and sufferance”, said a spokesman for the Episcopal Conference of Italy.