As EU ministers are due to meet in Luxembourg to discuss Europe’s immigration crisis, Italian police clad in riot gear have used force to haul away dozens of African migrants near the French-Italian border.
Three hundred migrants - mostly from Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea - had been camping out for days in Ventimiglia, in hopes of moving further north into France, when the Italian border police in riot gear hauled them in on Tuesday.
Some migrants resisted boarding the buses while the rest cooperated with the police. Some fled towards a rocky area near the seaside.
"We are helpless and hopeless and at the mercy of the police," Mustafari, a migrant from Sudan, told Reuters, adding that he had tried to travel to Sweden via train six times only to be forced back to Italy by French police each time.
A police officer was reportedly injured during the skirmishes and was medically treated on the spot.
Italy alone has registered around 60,000 migrant landings since the start of this year, as the destination for Europe-bound migrant boats.
Italy's Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, who arrived in Luxembourg for the EU talks on the migrant crisis, described their plight as a "punch in the face of Europe." The African migrants have become a source of tension between France and Italy, while France says that the migrants are Italy's responsibility according to EU law.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said on Monday there could be "no national selfishness and no closing of the eyes." Renzi addressed the matter in the spirit of collective responsibility, "If Europe wants to be Europe, it must tackle this problem collectively," with respect to efforts by EU countries to avoid bearing any kind of real burden.
Renzi threatened the EU on Sunday that he could implement a "Plan B" through which his country would actively "hurt" Europe through issuing newly arrived migrants with temporary visas, giving them the right to travel throughout the Schengen area.