Migrant crisis: A record 350 smugglers held on Franco-Italian border
Tuesday, 05 December 2017
A record 350 smugglers have been held this year on the border between France and Italy, near the French town of Menton, the Prefect of Alpes-Maritimes Department, Georges-François Leclerc, announced on Monday. “We arrest and punish the smugglers between Vintimille and France,” Leclerc told France Bleu radio. “At this stage we have held 350 smugglers and handed them over to the justice department, which has a very strict jurisprudence. That’s a record, practically one a day.”
The number of migrants intercepted at the border is expected to reach a record high of about 50,000, according to the Prefecture. In Vintimille, on the Italian side of the border, migrants explained that they try their luck, are intercepted, are sent back to Italy, then try their luck again, many times over.
“They are people from all over Africa who are seeking to live in the West,” Leclerc said. “We send them back to Italy.”
The administrative justice authorities have twice disavowed Leclerc’s actions. They found, in March and September of this year, that there had been cases in which the right to asylum had been violated. However, the Prefect said the interceptions “are carried out in good conditions” and “in perfect compliance with the law.”
Since summer, the police have noticed a wave of migrants coming in from Tunisia. In 10 days, between five and 10 Tunisian smugglers were convicted and sentenced to prison terms ranging from four months to three years, the public prosecutor’s office reported.
The smugglers’ nationalities have evolved over the past two years. At first, they were mainly Tunisians, Egyptians and, to a lesser extent, Eastern Europeans, especially Albanians.
“We now have more diverse nationalities; Pakistanis, Afghans, Italians and Frenchmen, but also Tunisians, who are more about community networks, in other words, Tunisians bringing across other Tunisians,” the Public Prosecutor of Nice, Jean-Michel Pretre, said on Monday at his monthly press conference.