A rescue ship carrying 230 migrants has docked at the French port of Toulon, maritime authorities have said, amid a French-Italian row over which country is responsible for them.

The Ocean Viking, operated by a French NGO, had picked up the migrants at sea near the Libyan coast before spending weeks seeking a port to accept them.

The ship docked shortly before 8am Irish time.

The Ocean Viking is escorted by a military boat on its arrival at Toulon

France had never before allowed a rescue vessel carrying migrants to land on its coast, but did so this time because Italy had refused access.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said yesterday that the migrants were Italy's responsibility under EU rules, and that the French move was an "exceptional" measure that would not guide future action.

He said Italy's refusal to accept the migrants was "incomprehensible" and that there would be "severe consequences" for Italy's bilateral relations with France and with the EU as a whole.