In comments to reporters on Wednesday however, he said his comments had been distorted.
“In fact, in Vienna I said exactly the opposite, to defend asylum seekers and immigrants who some people in Europe use as slaves,” he argued.
“There is nothing that requires apologies from me,” he said, adding that poor work by a French-speaking translator might have been behind the misunderstanding.
In its statement, the AU pointed out that Italy had itself benefited from mass emigration, with more than 26-million Italians leaving their home country in between 1861 to 1976.
It was a matter of record, the statement added, that “Italy has benefited greatly from its huge diaspora through remittances and trade”.
Salvini is the leader of the anti-immigration League party, part of Italy’s ruling coalition, where he also serves as deputy prime minister.
Within days of becoming interior minister, he delivered on a campaign promise to close Italian ports to immigrants and asylum-seekers.