French border ‘raid’ angers Italy
Italy summoned French ambassador Christian Masset to Rome over the controversy, in which five officers forced a Nigerian migrant to take a urine test.
France said the country had the right to patrol the Bardonecchia train station (pictured) in Turin under a 1990 agreement.
France said Gerald Darmanin, the French minister in charge of customs issues, signed the statement which explained how French officers came to be present when the Paris-bound train arrived from Milan.
“These uniformed agents identified as French customs officials suspected one passenger, a Nigerian national resident in Italy, of having drugs on his person.
“In line with article 60 bis of the customs code the agents asked the person if he would consent to providing a urine sample to detect drugs which he agreed to do in writing,” the French statement read.
“In order to carry out the test in conditions respecting the person, the agents waited until the train arrived to use the facility at Bardonecchia station which was placed at the disposal of French customs,” it said.
But the Italian government told the media it had informed France this month that the train station room was now off-limits, with talks scheduled in Turin on April 16 to discuss the situation.
The humanitarian aid group Rainbow4Africa was providing care and counselling for migrants seeking to make the dangerous Alpine crossing into France, Italian officials said.
The NGO, which has for months occupied part of the train station to help migrants heading for France, filed a complaint about the treatement of the man, who is from Nigeria.
The migrant clinic is about 800 metres inside the Italian border.
Rainbow4Africa raised the alarm after the “raid” on Friday night.
The NGO said: “French border agents entered – armed – the clinic run in Bardonecchia, forcing a migrant to a urine test and intimidating our doctor and the mediators and lawyers.”
Rainbow4Africa added that the French officers “seriously interfered” with the organisation’s work.
It said that France should relax its strict policy on rejecting migrants.
Matteo Salvini, the head of Italy’s far-right League, explained that the Italian government, “instead of expelling Russian diplomats should remove French diplomats”, referring to the furore over the poisoning of a former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Britain, widely blamed on Russia.
Bardonecchia train station. Picture credit: Wikimedia