Italy far-right fury after France caught migrant dumping

Tourists take photos at the "Porta di Lampedusa", known as "The door of Europe", a monument to the migrants who have died in the Mediterranean.
Tourists take photos at the "Porta di Lampedusa", known as "The door of Europe", a monument to the migrants who have died in the Mediterranean.
Image: FILE IMAGE: Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

Italy's far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini on Tuesday hit out at President Emmanuel Macron after French police were caught committing the "unprecedented offence" of dumping migrants in Italian woods.

Salvini, also deputy prime minister and head of the anti-immigrant League party, on Monday demanded a "clear response" after French authorities admitted to returning migrants to Italy in "error".

A French police van was seen on Friday driving into Italy to return recently-arrived migrants to the town of Calviere.

"It was an error to enter Italian territory without the authorisation of the Italian police," said Cecile Bigot-Dekeyzer, the top official in the Hautes-Alpes region.

"The police had no right to enter Italian territory," the prefect said.

An outraged Salvini batted away that explanation.

"Abandoning migrants in an Italian wood can't be just a mistake or an incident," he said on social media. "What happened in Claviere is an unprecedented offence towards our country."

"Does Paris, which claims to be civil, find it normal to throw people into the woods?... We're dealing with an international shame, and Mr Macron can't pretend he doesn't know. We won't accept any excuses," Salvini wrote.

Thousands of migrants are caught each year trying to enter France and returned to the Italian border. Last year AFP journalists saw French police dropping off migrants in front of Bardonecchia train station, in Italy.

Relations between Rome and Paris have been increasingly tense in recent months, with Italy's populist government accusing France and others of failing to share the burden of the 700,000 migrants and asylum seekers that have crossed the Mediterranean to come to Italy since 2013.

French police in March sparked outrage by carrying out identity checks at Bardonecchia station, with the Italian foreign ministry summoning the French ambassador to protest.

In June, Macron criticised Salvini for closing Italian ports to the Aquarius migrant rescue boat, prompting a fresh summoning of the ambassador.

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