Tension over the Falkland Islands is growing after Argentine activists targeted luxury cruise ships in Buenos Aires, harassing passengers including many elderly British people.

National activists protesting about ‘illegal’ ship visits to the Falklands subjected hundreds of cruise passengers on the Seabourn Sojourn and the Star Princess to verbal abuse on Friday, preventing them from leaving the vessels.

Protestors burned Union Jack flags and tyres at the Buenos Aires cruise terminal, and unfurled banners saying ‘pirate ships out’, the Telegraph reported.

The British government has condemned the wave of intimidation and has called on the activists to “allow cruise ships to travel without threats or hindrance”.

The protesters accused the Star Princess and the Seabourn Sojourn of docking illegally by violating a provincial law barring them from stopping off at the Falklands.

The Telegraph reported that the so-called ‘Gaucho Rivero’ law is active in five provinces, prohibiting British ships involved in the “exploitation of natural resources” around the Falklands from docking, and activists insist this should also apply to cruise vessels.

Last month, the British government summoned the Argentine ambassador Alicia Castro following an earlier spate of incidents that have affected almost 10,000 passengers since mid-November.

Last week, Argentina’s president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner took out an advert in the Guardian accusing Britain of colonialism. In retaliation, the Sun newspaper took out an advert in an English-language Buenos Aires newspaper disputing Argentina’s claim to the islands.