France sends extra security to Italy border after migrant protests
Pro and anti-migrant groups descended on the Alps over the weekend
France will send security reinforcements to the border with Italy after clashes took place over the weekend by activists from both pro and anti-migrant groups.
Interior minister Gerard Collomb said the activists had turned the Alps, which migrants travelling from Italy pass through, into a stage for provocations.
Far-right activists tried to block the French Alpine pass used by migrants on Saturday and early Sunday to "ensure that no illegal immigrant can return to France".
The group set up a plastic wire mesh fence across the border and placed a large banner on the snowy mountain-side telling migrants to "go back to your homeland".
While on Sunday afternoon pro-migrant groups from Italy and France had scuffles with law enforcement officials as they passed through the border with around 30 migrants at Montgenevre Pass.
"Violence was committed against security forces and a gendarme vehicle was damaged," the interior ministry said.
Describing the actions as “unacceptable”, Mr Collomb said "significant police and gendarme reinforcements" would be send to the area.
The extra security forces will "ensure absolute respect for the control of the border," he added.
Since 2017, migrants, many of whom are from former French colonies in West Africa, have began crossing the Alpine border in increased numbers.
Authorities sent 315 illegal immigrants back to Italy in 2016 but that number increased to 1,900 last year.
The announcement comes hours after France’s parliament approved a controversial immigration law designed to tighten asylum rules.
The bill, which divided President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist La République en Marche (LREM) party, cuts down asylum application deadlines as well as doubling the time for which illegal migrants can be detained.
It also introduced measures to make it easier for refugees who have been granted asylum to better integrate.
The bill passed on Sunday evening by 228 votes to 139, with 24 abstentions. One member of LREM voted against the legislation, while 14 other members abstained.
Mr Collomb said the reforms would allow for "better controlled" immigration but it was attacked by critics on the left said the legislation was too repressive and right-wing activists who said the measures did not go far enough.
After voting against the bill, LREM member Jean-Michel Clément said: "I am not sure we're sending to world citizens the universal message that has always been ours."
Mr Clément, a former socialist, later announced he was quitting the party.
Mr Macron had been facing pressure over the bill as well as other reforms to overhaul the state rail operator SNCF.
On Monday another two days of strike action began as rail workers protest the government’s plans to reduce SNCF’s €50 billion (Dh225bn) of debt.
Only one third of domestic trains were running while international trains from to Italy were cancelled completely. The Eurostar said 80 per cent of its services would be running as usual.
Coinciding strikes at Air France caused misery for air passengers as 35 per cent of European and long-haul flights to and from its main hub at Paris Charles de Gaulle were cancelled.
Updated: April 23, 2018 05:02 PM