Migrants stuck at the Franco-Italian border hoping to reach Northern European countries started Ramadan on Thursday (18 June).

Dozens of mostly Eritrean migrants had set up in makeshift camps on the rocky shore of the Mediterranean in the hope of crossing to France, a day after police hauled them away, pushing them back to the Italian town of Ventimiglia.

France and Austria have stepped up border controls on migrants coming from Italy, turning back hundreds and leaving growing numbers camped out in train stations in Rome and Milan.

But for migrants, like Nassirdim, who are still hoping to cross the border in the hope of reaching Northern European countries, the starting of Ramadan period is a difficult one.

"In our country, it's very very difficult, even eating. But...this, I didn't expect this situation. Even now I call for my family, even arrived in here but now I'm trying to call for my family in this Ramadan and in this Ramadan also we invite our god to change this bad situation to better," said 25-year old Nassirdim, who hopes to study in England.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic (lunar) calendar. Muslims around the world believe that it is also the month when the Koran was revealed to Prophet Mohammed. During Ramadan Muslims fast from dawn to sunset.

Italian Red Cross press officer Fiammetta Cogliono said the vast majority of the migrants at the Franco-Italian border were Muslims.

"Here at Ponte Ludovico almost the majority, 80% of the migrants, are following Ramadan. Until now they have been under tents, protecting themselves where they have been sleeping these days, they have not eaten anything, not drunk anything, only women and children," she said.

Italy has been trying to get the EU to help it cope with waves of migrants arriving in overcrowded boats from North Africa, with official estimates putting the total at 57,000 so far this year. Thousands are also arriving in other countries on or near the Mediterranean Sea, such as Greece and Bulgaria.

Neighbouring France has argued that, according to EU law, the migrants are Italy's responsibility, while Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said on Monday (15 June) the seaside encampment was a "punch in the face" for the EU, which must do more.