Matteo Salvini, Italy’s far-Right interior minister, has threatened to close the country’s airports to block the rumoured repatriation of migrants on charter flights from Germany.
In a move likely to anger Berlin, Mr Salvini, the head of the anti-immigrant League Party and deputy prime minister, on Sunday said he would shut the airports in the same way he defied EU laws and closed Italy’s ports to prevent migrant arrivals.
The minister was responding to reports that Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, was preparing to send the first group of 40 migrants back to Italy on two flights scheduled to land in Rome this week.
Reports in Italian media say up to 40,000 migrants could be repatriated from Germany to Italy as Mrs Merkel comes under greater pressure ahead of Bavarian elections next week, but the Italian government has denied there is any agreement to step up migrant returns.
However, a spokesman for the German Interior Minister, Horst Seehofer, told the Italian news agency, Ansa: "No repatriation flights to Italy were being planned in the coming days."
Luigi Di Maio, deputy prime minister and head of the Five Star Movement, said “no agreement has been signed” between Germany and Italy for the “secondary movement” of migrants.
"If anyone in Berlin or Brussels is thinking of dumping dozens of immigrants in Italy through unauthorised charter flights they should know there is not and will not be any airport available,” Mr Salvini Tweeted