Migrant freezes to death after crossing Alps into France from Italy

A young migrant found unconscious on the side of the road in the French Alps after crossing over the border from Italy has died after suffering a heart attack and hypothermia.

Migrant freezes to death after crossing Alps into France from Italy
Two migrants on their way to a mountain pass near Bardonecchia in Italy to cross the border into France on 13 January 2018. Photo: AFP

The man, believed to be around 20 years old, was found in a lay-by near the village of Val-des-Près, just a few kilometres from the border, by a truck driver at around 3 am on Thursday morning.

“He had not been run over by a vehicle,” a police source said.

The driver was trying to help him when a French border police patrol came across the pair and called in an ambulance. Paramedics found the man suffering from hypothermia and cardiac arrest but were unable to help him and he was declared dead when taken to hospital in the nearby town of Briançon.

Local prosecutors said they had opened an investigation into “manslaughter and endangering the lives of others” over the death of the young man, whose identity and nationality, if known, have not been made public.

A similar investigation was opened in May last year when the body of a young black man, presumed to be a migrant, was found by walkers in the nearby Montgenèvre area.

Several charities, including Amnesty International and the local Tous Migrants group, in December warned threat they feared that migrants crossing the Alps from Italy into France could die if more was not done to help them.

Thousands of young men, many from French-speaking west Africa, have trudged across the Alps from Italy over the past three years, dreaming of jobs and a new life in France.

Many have been tricked into paying hundreds of euros to people traffickers based in northern Italy who promise them a comfortable car ride across the border but then dump them in the Alps, leaving them to fend for themselves.



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How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area

European countries agreed on Thursday to push towards a long-stalled reform of the bloc's migration system, urging tighter control of external borders and better burden-sharing when it comes to asylum-seekers.

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area
European interior ministers met in the northern French city of tourcoing, where president Emmanuel Macron gave a speech. Photo: Yoat Valat/AFP

The EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, speaking after a meeting of European interior ministers, said she welcomed what she saw as new momentum on the issue.

In a reflection of the deep-rooted divisions on the issue, France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin – whose country holds the rotating EU presidency – said the process would be “gradual”, and welcomed what he said was unanimous backing.

EU countries backed a proposal from French President Emmanuel Macron to create a council guiding policy in the Schengen area, the passport-free zone used by most EU countries and some affiliated nations such as Switzerland and Norway.

Schengen council

Speaking before the meeting, Macron said the “Schengen Council” would evaluate how the area was working but would also take joint decisions and facilitate coordination in times of crisis.

“This council can become the face of a strong, protective Europe that is comfortable with controlling its borders and therefore its destiny,” he said.

The first meeting is scheduled to take place on March 3rd in Brussels.

A statement released after the meeting said: “On this occasion, they will establish a set of indicators allowing for real time evaluation of the situation at our borders, and, with an aim to be able to respond to any difficulty, will continue their discussions on implementing new tools for solidarity at the external borders.”

Step by step

The statement also confirmed EU countries agreed to take a step-by-step approach on plans for reforming the EU’s asylum rules.

“The ministers also discussed the issues of asylum and immigration,” it read.

“They expressed their support for the phased approach, step by step, put forward by the French Presidency to make headway on these complex negotiations.

“On this basis, the Council will work over the coming weeks to define a first step of the reform of the European immigration and asylum system, which will fully respect the balance between the requirements of responsibility and solidarity.”

A planned overhaul of EU migration policy has so far foundered on the refusal of countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia to accept a sharing out of asylum-seekers across the bloc.

That forces countries on the EU’s outer southern rim – Italy, Greece, Malta and Spain – to take responsibility for handling irregular migrants, many of whom are intent on making their way to Europe’s wealthier northern nations.

France is pushing for member states to commit to reinforcing the EU’s external borders by recording the details of every foreign arrival and improving vetting procedures.

It also wants recalcitrant EU countries to financially help out the ones on the frontline of migration flows if they do not take in asylum-seekers themselves.

Johansson was critical of the fact that, last year, “45,000 irregular arrivals” were not entered into the common Eurodac database containing the fingerprints of migrants and asylum-seekers.

Earlier, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser suggested her country, France and others could form a “coalition of the willing” to take in asylum-seekers even if no bloc-wide agreement was struck to share them across member states.

She noted that Macron spoke of a dozen countries in that grouping, but added that was probably “very optimistic”.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, hailed what he said was “a less negative atmosphere” in Thursday’s meeting compared to previous talks.

But he cautioned that “we cannot let a few countries do their EU duty… while others look away”.

France is now working on reconciling positions with the aim of presenting propositions at a March 3rd meeting on European affairs.