Paris Around 100 far-right activists tried to block a French Alpine pass used by migrants in a bid to "ensure that no illegal immigrant can return to France," according to media reports.
Members of the right-wing Generation Identity (GI) movement trudged through the snow up to Col de l'Echelle near the border with Italy where they erected a "symbolic border" to notify migrants "that the border is closed and they must return home."
The pass is a "strategic point of passage for illegal immigrants" entering from Italy, GI spokesman Romain Espino told Agence France-Presse (AFP), criticizing what he called "a lack of courage of the public authorities." "With a little bit of will, we can control immigration and borders," he added. The group, mainly French but also including Italians, Hungarians, Danes, Austrians, English, and Germans, plan to set up a "symbolic frontier" using plastic wire mesh.
Espino said the activists want "to explain to potential migrants that it is inhumane to make those people crossing the Mediterranean or the snow-covered Alps believe that these routes are not risky." "They are not going to find El Dorado; it's immoral. Those who pay for it are the French," he added.
For the past year, the French Alps have experienced a sharp increase in arrivals of young people, mostly from Guinea and Ivory Coast. According to authorities, 1,900 illegal immigrants were sent back to Italy in 2017 compared with 315 the previous year.
Migration remains a big issue along the French-Italian border, France's Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said on Friday night, referring to around 50,000 people denied entry in 2017. French border police are modifying the birth dates of unaccompanied migrant children to pass them off as adults to send them back to Italy, Italian NGOs said.
According to a report by the Guardian, the NGOs appealed to the European Commission and Italy's Interior Ministry, saying they have evidence of French police falsifying birth dates of children to deny entry in at least two cases.
In an appeal to the European Commission and Italy's interior ministry, the charities highlighted evidence of two cases in which birth dates appeared to have been modified on "refusal of entry" documents.
The charity staff said one incident took place in the Italian border town of Ventimiglia in March where French police wrote down an earlier birth date on "refusal of entry" documents for two children who were known by the charity. The date was different than the one declared by the children.
"We were only there by chance but saw two minors, who we knew well, being stopped by French police," Daniela Ziterosa, a legal assistant at the charity Intersos told the Guardian newspaper. "We managed to block them from being sent back and eventually the French took them in."
International human rights groups had condemned France over creating a mini jungle camp in the Italian border town of Ventimiglia where refugees suffer worsening humanitarian conditions. "Refugees' living conditions in the Italian town of Ventimiglia are getting worse," said Amnesty International and Caritas Internationalis in a report released in 2016.
Source: International Islamic News Agency