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Refugees stand off with gendarmerie

200 sleep on rocky beach as bid to continue north is halted

by Our Foreign Desk

NEARLY 200 refugees continued a four-day confrontation with French police on the Italian border yesterday.

The refugees, most from Sudan, Libya and Eritrea, want to leave Italy and continue northward.

They slept outdoors overnight on rocks at the Ventimiglia border crossing, just miles from the resorts of the French Riviera.

On Sunday, some chanted: “We’re not going back” and: “Police go away.”

“Where are human rights? Where is humanity? It is a big problem for us,” said Darfur Sudanese migrant Naser Alden Abdulaziz.

The French Interior Ministry said it had reinforced border controls due to an influx of migrants.

Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano called the Ventimiglia standoff a “slap in the face to Europe” and demanded that EU countries take in asylum-seekers, claiming that most do not wish to remain in Italy.

The civil war in Libya has greatly increased the number of refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe, often in perilously overloaded boats operated by unscrupulous people-traffickers.

Italy is expected to raise the matter at a European Union interior ministers’ meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday.

On Sunday, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi threatened to implement an unspecified “plan B” if other EU nations did not help shoulder the burden of resettling refugees.

Mr Alfano also called for the EU to compensate Italy for the cost of deporting nearly 16,000 migrants whose asylum claims were rejected last year.

“I will say with great clarity: kids, either we do equal distribution of migrants in Europe, or we organise refugee camps in Libya, or we organise a serious policy of repatriation,” Mr Alfano told TV reporters.

“If Europe doesn’t follow through on its responsibility and solidarity, it will find a different Italy.”

The European Commission had proposed that other nations share responsibility for 40,000 recently arrived Syrian and Eritrean refugees, but Italy objected that over 57,000 people had already arrived this year.

Some 2,000 Syrian refugees arrived in the Greek port of Piraeus yesterday alone from the island of Lesbos, where they had been stranded for days.


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