Ventimiglia 'will not be our Calais' Italian minister says

'We are saving Schengen and Europe,' Alfano adds

08 August, 12:37

    Police around a group of migrants and asylum seekers at the border town of Ventimiglia, Italy Police around a group of migrants and asylum seekers at the border town of Ventimiglia, Italy

    ROME - Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said Monday the Liguria coastal town of Ventimiglia near the French border "will not be our Calais" after recent tension over the build-up of migrants and refugees there. "The future of Europe is being played out on the Ventimiglia border, including at the Italian-French border post," Alfano said in an interview with La Repubblica newspaper after tension between local No Border activists and the Italian authorities culminated in the death by heart attack of a police officer during clashes on Saturday.

    "And we are managing (the border) with maximum efficiency during what is a genuine emergency on the immigration front," he continued.

    "We are saving Schengen and therefore the (European) Union," Alfano added in reference to the agreement allowing the free movement of people that underpins the bloc. "It must be clear to everyone: if Ventimiglia has not yet become an Italian Calais it is due to the fact that we have carried out railway inspections, and not just those, in order to reduce rather than increase the flows, while at the same time transferring migrants building up there to other centres," the minister said. He was referring to the vast encampment known as 'The Jungle' that has built up near the northern French coastal town of Calais containing migrants aiming to travel to the UK. The situation in Ventimiglia deteriorated after a group of 300 migrants and asylum seekers forced a police cordon, jumped into the sea and swam to France on Friday. Some of the asylum seekers simply ran across the border, breaking through a French police cordon and onto the crowded beaches beyond. Many were eventually returned to Italy.

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