Migrants who had taken to the rocks on the Italian-French border after their camp was dismantled by police have now left the area and many are now sheltering from bad weather at a nearby transit centre.
VENTIMIGLIA, ITALY (OCTOBER 1, 2015) (REUTERS) – Italian authorities on Thursday (October 1) sought to clear debris and belongings from the border area at Ventimiglia after about one hundred migrants and activists held a standoff with police.
Migrants who have been turned back at the French border have gathered along the coast near Ventimiglia, some 39 kilometres east of Nice, since June. Police have repeatedly tried to clear the area, but the migrants keep returning in the hope of being allowed to cross into France and onwards towards northern Europe where they believe the opportunities for them are brighter.
Their camp was finally dismantled on Wednesday morning when Italian riot police went in to clear the area.
Now many have taken temporary shelter at a local transit centre, set up next to Ventimiglia centre. The centre sleeps approximately 280 refugees and migrants from Central Africa, Syria, Pakistan and Bangladesh, all of whom are trying to cross the border into France.
“The 58 people who were on the rocks yesterday are now with us” explained Red Cross worker Fiammetta Cogliolo.
“Now they are living here along with us until they decide to leave once again but here they are looked after, they have found a bed and covers, that is all they needed last night” she said.
French police continually bring migrants who have crossed the border back into Italy, with some 157 brought back in the last few days from nearby Marseilles. Many of those trying to cross have crossed the Mediterranean by boat from Libya to Sicily and ended up in the huge holding centre at Mineo.
“I came first to Mineo and I was there for about a year without documents, there was only a little food and then I came here to go to France” said Tanja Announ, a Migrant from Mali.
“In France they stopped me because I have no documents and sent me back to Italy. In Italy I also have no documents and I only speak Italian a little bit” he said, explaining that it is a never ending cycle.
Sudanese migrant Abdellah had been on the rocks on Wednesday, protesting about being unable to cross the border.
“My future is in God’s hands, I don’t know what happened yesterday, tomorrow I don’t know. I am in God’s hands. Wait for God,” he said.
“I want to go to Europe, not in Italy” said Eritrean refugee Taswalen.
“There are so many challenges, so many constraints, this is the French police. So we are staying here” he said.
More than 130,000 migrants have arrived in Italy by boat so far this year, making it a front-line country along with Greece for Europe’s biggest immigration crisis since World War II. France refuses to let them cross the border because, according to EU law, the migrants are Italy’s responsibility.
The International Organization of Migration’s latest figures state that more than half a million migrants and refugees have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe this year, whilst almost 3,000 have died making the attempt.