Italy is urging other European countries to take a greater share of the immigrants pouring across from North Africa.
The tiny island of Lampedusa is just south of Sicily. It is only 150 kilometres from the Tunisian coast and has borne the brunt of the flood of refugees.
The government says 15 thousand have entered Italy since the start of the year and numbers have surged as the turmoil in North Africa grows.
Locals complain bitterly of being abandoned by Rome.
One women told reporters that locals are not angry with the refugees as it is not their fault, but they are angry with the government who do nothing.
That anger has spilled over into protest, as inhabitants fathered on the dock to prevent the unloading of a ship carrying equipment to build a tent city to house the refugees.
It is now estimated migrants outnumber the Italian inhabitants of Lampedusa.