ROME (Reuters) – Migrants trying to cross from Italy to France at the Ventimiglia border point on the Mediterranean coast are mistreated by French police and offered little help by Italian authorities, the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) charity said on Friday.
Migration has long been a cause of friction in Franco-Italian relations, amid a wider political battle within the European Union on how to respond to people trying to get to the region, and rising arrivals from North Africa.
The Italian interior ministry declined to comment on the group’s report, called “Denied Passage”, while its French counterpart did not immediately respond to an emailed request from Reuters.
French law enforcement “systematically” sends back to Italy migrants found to have entered illegally, “often with violence, inhumane treatment as well as arbitrary detention,” MSF claimed in the report.
It said migrants are forcibly returned regardless of their individual circumstances without appropriate assessment, and “vulnerable people such as minors, pregnant women and new mothers, elderly or severely ill persons are not exempted from this practice”.
In Ventimiglia, the Italian seaside town just next to the French border where hundreds, if not thousands, of migrants pass through every month, most of them sleep in the street or in makeshift shelters.
“Access to adequate shelter, healthcare, clean water, or sanitary facilities is extremely limited”, MSF said, adding that only “two out of four promised” government accommodation facilities for migrants are operational.
MSF runs a mobile clinic in Ventimiglia.
Some migrants have resorted to sleeping in the town’s cemetery and using its water fountains, but Ventimiglia’s rightist mayor Flavio Di Muro this week hired security guards to evict them from the premises.
(Additional reporting by Ingrid Melander in Paris and Angelo Amante in Rome; Editing by Frances Kerry)