The racist Italian government has been grandstanding with the lives of migrants.
The interior minister Matteo Salvini had prevented migrants on board coastguard ship Diciotti from disembarking in Sicily.
Last week he had told them to “get stuffed”.
They were part of an original group of 190 migrants who were rescued from an overcrowded rubber dinghy on 16 August.
Italy has threatened to withhold its financial contribution to the EU and to block approval of EU spending plans—which require unanimity—until other member states redistribute more migrants.
But there were some signs of resistance. During the five days that the Diciotti was moored in Catania, growing demonstrations called for the migrants to be allowed to land.
As part of this protesters held up arancini—rice balls that are a Sicilian symbol of welcoming.
Salvini, as well as being interior minister, is leader of the League party. He is whipping up racism around the issue of migrants to build his popularity.
So when a prosecutor said he would charge with kidnapping, Salvini announced the investigation into himself at a political rally.
He challenged magistrates to arrest him and goaded them, saying they could not “arrest the desire for change of 60 million Italians”.
But there is weakness in his bluster. In the same speech he said that he had given permission for the remaining 137 people on board to disembark. He said they would be looked after by the Catholic church.
Salvini said if the government collapsed over the migrant crisis, “We’ll go to elections and I’ll take Italy.”
On Tuesday he was set to meet the Hungarian far right leader Viktor Orban in Milan to discuss the “migrant problem”.
The centre left and some trade unions called a protest in response.