Dead man's silhouette
Dead man’s silhouette painted the colours of the Italian flag placed at the entrance of a refugee centreHandout

Far-right activists have staged a xenophobic protest in northern Italy by placing silhouettes of dead men painted the colours of the Italian flag and death notices at the entrance of 10 Catholic-run refugee centres and ruling Democratic Party (PD) branches.

Veneto Fronte Skinheads claimed responsibility for the anti-refugee stunt, which was aimed at those who "favour the planned invasion of hordes of extra-communal migrants", and was carried out in Como, Brescia, Crema, Lodi, Reggio Emilia-Guastalla, Piacenza-Bobbio, Trento, Mestre, Vicenza e Treviso.

The group also targeted a tabled parliamentary proposal to introduce the Ius Soli - the right of anyone born in Italy to Italian citizenship - calling it "a weapon of mass destruction".

"We wanted to hit those who continue to carry out a political plan aimed at annihilating Italian identity," the group said in its website.

Graziano Delrio, former mayor of Reggio Emilia and current minister for infrastructures in the Matteo Renzi government, compared the act to fascist squads on Twitter:

More than 136,000 migrants and refugees have come to Europe through Italy by boat in 2015, making it a front-line state in the continent's biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War.

The country, which is struggling to cope with the influx of arrivals, has started to relocate some asylum seekers to other countries of the European Union as part of a plan to ease the burden of taking in 300,000 migrants in less than two years. Seventy Syrian and Eritrean refugees were sent to Sweden and Finland in October. Interior minister Angelino Alfano said the plan to relocate 40,000 people from Italy over two years was "absolutely doable".

Fears have grown over the possibility that Islamic State (Isis) members could disguise themselves as migrants to enter Europe and carry out terrorist attacks. Reports that the passport of a Syrian refugee was found near the body of a dead suicide bomber involved in the Paris attacks of 13 November have played in the hands of the far-right that seeks to limit or block the influx of migrants in the continent.

However, Renzi has proposed a new plan to fight extremism in the country. On 24 November he said he plans to spend $1bln (£663m) to fight terrorism with culture, art and architecture. The centre-left leader hopes to improve security by instilling a "cultural identity" among the new immigrants.

"What happened in Paris signalled a step-up in the cultural battle that we are living," Renzi said. "They imagine terror; we answer with culture. They destroy statues; we love art. They destroy books; we are the country of libraries."

He also plans to offer $500 to 18-year-olds to go to concerts, museums, and theatres.