The refusal by a group of Italian mayors to implement stringent new laws toughening rules for asylum-seekers is "unacceptable", sources within the populist government said Thursday, adding that premier Giuseppe Conte would welcome talks with the mayors over their grievances.
"The stance of mayors who publicly declared that they do no intend to apply new government legislation is unacceptable... to do so is tantamount to breaking the law," said the sources.
"But if Anci (Italy's association of local town halls) wants a meeting with the government to draw attention to possible issues around the implementation of the immigration and security law, the premier and the interior minister are willing to attend," the sources said.
The comments came after the mayors of Palermo, Naples and Florence said that the controversial law violates the basic rights of migrants. The brainchild of far-right interior minister Matteo Salvini the law was passed by the populist coalition in November.
The law prevents migrants from applying for residency permits while they are waiting for their asylum applications to be processed, meaning they have no access to services including health care, schools for their children and housing.
Palermo's centre-left mayor Leoluca Orlando said the security and immigration law was "inhumane" while the centre-left mayor of Naples, Luigi De Magistris, urged Salvini to resign, saying he had "betrayed the Constitution".
Salvini invited Orlando and De Magistris to stand down after their remarks.
"Resign Orlando and you too De Magistris. We are living in a democracy where the Italian people rule," Salvini said in a video posted to Facebook.
The group of Italian mayors are threatening to block the implementation of the law in their cities in a major challenge to Salvini and the populist government. The mayor of Florence, Dario Nardella, told reporters on Thursday that the mayors are also considering seeking a possible referral from a judge to Italy's Constitutional Court over the law.