Desperate migrants and refugees fleeing conflict in Africa and the Middle East are turning to hidden paths into Europe which were once used by members of the French Resistance during the Second World War. According to a report in The Times, smugglers charge as much as €100 per person to guide them through dangerous Alpine passes.
"These paths are very dangerous," an Italian officer on patrol near Campo Roya – a refugee camp on the Italian side of the French border – told a reporter. "Often they slip and break a leg."
The refugee crisis has shown no sign of abating over this summer, with around 94,000 having sailed to Italy this year alone. An estimated 140,000 are currently living in temporary migrant centres across the country as their asylum claims are processed. From there, many attempt various risky, illegal journeys towards France and northern Europe, often to join relatives.
Ventimiglia, a historic coastal town near the southernmost extent of the French-Italian border, hosts one of Italy's growing refugee camps. The camp there opened in early July with around 100 residents, but it's officially now holding at least 600 – although unofficial figures place numbers at closer to 800. People are housed in cramped portable cabins in a Red Cross centre, with the overspill taking to camp beds under the town's flyover.
It's from places like these near the Alps that many refugees attempt their journeys into France. Such crossings are banned, but the border is porous, as authorities across France hurriedly expand temporary residential capacity to cope with the influx.
More than 25,000 migrants, travelling mostly either from Nigeria and Ethiopia, arrived in Italy in the month of July alone this year, according to Reuters. This represents a 12 per cent year-on-year increase. In general, more refugees are arriving from sub-Saharan Africa than before, including increasing numbers from Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia.