Italian police have moved to clear an unauthorised migrant camp off the French border, sending dozens of asylum-seekers fleeing on rocks by the Mediterranean Sea, as hundreds more continued to arrive in the country.
In the early morning of 30 September, about 200 officers in anti-riot gear backed by armoured vehicles entered the makeshift camp near Ventimiglia, home to about 150 migrants who had lived there for months, hoping to cross into France. Authorities said they held five people, including one who was reportedly the target of an international arrest warrant. No further information on the individual was immediately available.
No one was injured in the operation but dozens of migrants and activists from a left-wing collective sympathetic to their plea scrambled for the seawall to get out of police reach. A man also made an impromptu protest dive into the sea, while others shouted "we are not going back!", referring to their will to cross the border rather than be relocated to reception centres in Italy.
A stand-off with police lined up on the shore facing the rocks was ongoing and the local bishop, Antonio Suetta, was called at the scene to mediate and possibly persuade demonstrators to get off the slippery and potentially hazardous shore.
Migrants, mainly from Sudan, Libya and Eritrea, have been stuck a few kilometres from the French Riviera since Paris tightened border security in June. Ventimiglia's centre-left mayor Enrico Ioculano had been calling for the camp to be cleared since, claiming the repeated protests staged by the migrants were disrupting border traffic and trade.
Meanwhile the coastguard said they rescued more than 1,600 people since the beginning of the week, with the last 500 intercepted aboard five rubber boats off the Libyan coast on 29 September.