Oxfam says French border police are mistreating migrant children who are seeking to enter France from Italy, sending them back to Italy in violation of French and European Union law.
“Some children even had the soles of their shoes cut off, before being sent back to Italy,” an Oxfam staff member says in a newly released report entitled “Nowhere But Out.”
“Police yell at them, laugh at them, push them and tell them, ‘You will never cross here,’” said one aid worker. “Some children have their mobile phone seized and the SIM card removed. They lose all their data and phonebook. They cannot even call their parents afterwards.”
Macron, Conte to meet
French President Emmanuel Macron and new Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte are meeting Friday amid tensions between the two countries about migrants.
Earlier this week, the French leader was critical of Italy after it turned away hundreds of migrants aboard a rescue ship, calling Italy’s behavior “irresponsible.” Italy’s new Interior Minister Matteo Salvini countered, saying France should be taking in more migrants and that Macron should move from “words to action.”
Macron said Thursday, “It’s time for collective action” and he never “meant to offend” Italy.
According to the “Nowhere But Out” report, an estimated 16,500 refugees and other migrants have been staying in and around the small Italian town of Ventimiglia, seven kilometers from the French border. One in four of the migrants is an unaccompanied child.
The report says there are “no arrangements” in Ventimiglia to take care of the returned children. “Once off the train, they are left to fend for themselves.”
Adults and children are often forced to walk back to Italy.
“Along that road, we met people walking back under the rain or the burning sun,” Oxfam said in the report. “The last person we met was a very young Eritrean girl holding her 40-day-old baby in her arms.”
The report says the French police frequently change the paperwork of the unaccompanied children to make them seem older than they are and that they want to return to Italy. Many are attempting to reach family and friends in France and other European countries, the charity says.
The charity has urged Italy, France and all European Union members “to share responsibility for hosting asylum seekers more equally … so that the rights and needs of asylum seekers are addressed and links with family and relatives are given priority.”