The simmering migrant crisis at the French-Italian border

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What happens at Italy’s western gateway to northern Europe when migration crises put pressure on the EU’s external borders? Monica Pinna went to Ventimiglia, on the Franco-Italian border, to take the pulse of this historic migrant trail.

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The Italian city of Ventimiglia, about eight kilometers from the border with France, has been the scene of a constant migration crisis for the past eight years.

In 2015, France reintroduced internal border controls, systematically turning Ventimiglia into a bottleneck for migrants trying to reach Northern European countries.

According to Schengen rules the measure should be “exceptional” and strictly “time-limited”. The French government said the measure was taken in response to the “threat of terrorism”.

In September the European Court of Justice ruled that pushbacks were illegal. They violate EU rules on the repatriation of migrants – says the EU Supreme Court – since the person concerned should “be granted a certain period of time to voluntarily leave the territory”.

Once a week Filippo, a retired bricklayer, accompanies the families rejected by the French police to the Ventimiglia station.

“The last 15 kilometers are psychological and moral violence, especially on the part of Europe towards people who can no longer go back,” he says. Philip’s passengers will try again to reach France in search of work, for their family or traveling to another northern country. Philip shows them alternative ways to continue their journey.

This year, around 40,000 migrants have been sent back to Italy. The associations say that sooner or later 90% of migrants manage to leave and that the stricter controls only make the crossing more dangerous. Since 2015, around 50 migrants have lost their lives attempting to cross the border.

“It is a continuous and silent massacre which obviously does not have the proportions of that of the Mediterranean Sea, but which unfortunately takes place in the center of Europe”, says Jacopo Colomba, legal consultant of the NGO WeWorld.

Watch Monica Pinna’s full report in the video player above.

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