ROME — Italy's interior minister has likened to hijackers some 60 rescued migrants refusing attempts to return them to Libya.

Matteo Salvini told reporters Wednesday that the migrants, who allegedly threatened the crew of a tugboat which rescued them earlier in the week in waters off Libya, were "criminals," and "not refugees, who hijacked a ship with violence."

He said they would "end up for some time in jail and then be brought back to their countries."

The migrants were transferred to an Italian coast guard ship from the tug, which had been in the area assisting an oil rig. The coast guard vessel was heading Wednesday to a Sicilian port.

Salvini, who leads the anti-migrant League party, is determined to stop most rescued migrants from reaching Italy.