HMS Bulwark
An Italian police car patrols in front of British warship HMS Bulwark as migrants disembark from the ship at Catania harbourREUTERS/Antonio Parrinello

The leaders of three northern Italian regions have pledged to cut funding to those municipalities that will take in migrants as more than 1,000 asylum-seekers on board of UK naval ship HMS Bulwark are landing in Catania.

Lombardy president Roberto Maroni, who leads the rebellious front against the centre-left government of prime minister Matteo Renzi, said local mayors and prefects in his region should not accept any more "illegal immigrants" or face funding cuts.

"I cannot accept that the central government decides the migrant quotas ahead of us," he said. "I'm the regional president and I decided whether to allocate the migrants."

His words were echoed by Giovanni Toti, the newly elected president of Liguria, and Luca Zaia, the president of Veneto. Over the weekend around 6,000 people were rescued from fishing boats and rubber dinghies in international waters close to Libya, Flavio Di Giacomo, spokesman for the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), told IBTimes UK.

"The good news is that nobody died," he said, adding that Spanish, Swedish, British and Irish boats are taking part to those operations but the majority of rescues are still conducted by the Italian authorities. The IOM put the number of arrivals in Italy to 54,660 people, which represents a 10% increase compared to last year.

"Italian arrivals are more or less in line with last year, " Di Giacomo explained. "Greek figures, on the other hand, are stunning: 46,150 in the islands of Kos, Lesbos and others. It's a 50% rise on 2014's total figure."

The majority of Greek arrivals were Syrians trapped in Turkey aboard ghost ships carrying thousands of people, Di Giacomo said.

The HMS Bulwark, which rescued around 1,145 migrants off Libya in one of the largest of such operations to date, was due to land in Catania port where aid operations have been set up. The migrants include at least ten pregnant women.

"Indications are there that there are 450,000 to 500,000 migrants in Libya who are waiting at the border" the ship's captain, Nick Cooke-Priest, told AFP.

Di Giacomo explained that Italy's reception facilities are at a breaking point with nearly 80,000 asylum-seekers being accommodated across the country. The minister of interior requests the collaboration of regions and municipalities to transfer migrants who land in Southern Italy. But government attempts to get regions to open new facilities are met with opposition from right-wing politicians who don't want refugees hosted in the wealthy northern regions.

There are currently 1,600 CAS (Special Assistance Centres) across Italy, including flats, hotel rooms, and abandoned police stations where migrants could be hosted temporarily while they wait for asylum requests.