Italian authorities turned away a boat with some 700 migrants aboard as there was no room left in immigration centres.
The boat, operated by medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF), was turned away from Sicily due to “lack of capacity in the Italian (migrant) reception system,” before heading for Reggio Calabria on the southern tip of the country on Saturday.
The Local reports that authorities had given permission for some migrants to disembark at Trapani in Sicily, but the charity had to turn down the offer due to tensions on board the boat.
Just seven people – all of whom required urgent medical attention – were eventually landed.
Italy is struggling to cope with a huge influx of refugees, more than 80,000 of whom have travelled across to country fleeing war and persecution in Libya and Syria.
There is evidence of a growing backlash against immigration in Italy after violent protests erupted in Rome on Friday, with members of far-right group Casapound throwing stones and water bottles at a bus carrying refugees.
Clutching Italian flags, they said they wanted their neighbourhood to “stay Italian” and did not have good enough infrastructure to deal with an influx of migrants.
Residents in the town of Quinto di Treviso also set mattresses, TV sets and furniture on fire in protest at plans to resettle 101 migrants from two empty apartment buildings. They described the move as an “invasion”.
The migrants were eventually transferred to an army barracks for their own safety.
Luca Zaia, Governor of the Veneto region, spoke in support of the protesters, saying: “Veneto is in danger of becoming an outpost of Africa.”
“There are families living there, many of them with small children, and the local authority, without warning anyone, sends 101 refugees. Residents are just claiming the right to live in peace,” he added.