A group of African migrants has brought a legal case in France, alleging that they were tortured and abused in Italy after crossing the Mediterranean. French media reported that of the 38, 37 are Sudanese, while one is Eritrean.

The lawyer for the migrants, Isabelle Casau, was quoted by French public radio RFI as saying the 38 were "mistreated, some beaten, very often arbitrarily detained, blackmailed, and deprived of food and water".

One of the plaintiffs claims to have had his arm broken, while another says his testicles were crushed. The migrants said they were subjected to the degrading mistreatment when they had refused to have their fingerprints taken after landing in Lampedusa from Libya.

After some time in camps, the migrants claim to have fled and managed to get to France, where they are attempting to stay. The local authority is trying to send them back to Italy.

They are currently at an asylum centre in the south west area of Gelos, near the city of Pau.

In claiming that the courts in Pau had jurisdiction, Casau said the complaints were so serious "universal jurisdiction" applied, citing French law, along with the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Convention against Torture.

Europe 1 reported that each claim referred to "the natural persons who committed these tortures, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatments and their Italian administrative and political officials".

The year of 2017 was hailed as a turning points for Italy's attempts to deal with the migrant crisis, as numbers crossing into the country from northern Africa dropped by a third on the previous 12 months – though it was still over 119,000 people.

Interior Minister Marco Minniti was quoted as saying that a deal struck between the UN-backed government in Libya and Italy had help stem the flow of boats to southern Europe.