Amid an ongoing row over unauthorized crossings of the two countries' remote Alpine border, unnamed sources in Rome told the Italian press on Tuesday that an investigation was underway into whether gendarmes sought to drive underage migrants into Italy.
The incident allegedly took place on the night of October 18th, around a week after Italian police said they spotted French officers driving two men across the border near the ski resort of Claviere. Authorities in France admitted to the earlier incident, which they put down to a “mistake”.
That explanation will be less convincing if Italy can prove that the same thing happened more than once. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who styles himself as French President Emmanuel Macron's biggest critic, insists that similar incidents have recurred for several months and has shared what he claimed to be video evidence on his Facebook page.
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According to sources in his ministry, Italian officers said that in the case of the minors they were able to prevent their French counterparts from leaving the migrants in Italy's territory.
Salvini, head of the anti-immigration League party, has insisted on sending police reinforcements to Claviere since reports of unauthorized deportations first broke. He said that he would order a permanent guard post to be established on the Italian side to watch for any attempted pushbacks in future.
“What's coming out from Claviere just confirms that, when it comes to human rights, no one can preach to Italy,” Salvini railed.
He has repeatedly cited the alleged deportations as proof that France has no right to criticize the hardline measures against immigration that he has made his priority since taking office in June, and which Paris has denounced as cynical, irresponsible and “posturing“.
Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP