Italian fury as French border police block train full of African migrants
A train carrying Tunisian immigrants from Italy was halted at the French border yesterday in an escalation of a dispute over the fate of North African migrants fleeing political unrest for refuge in Europe.
A spokesman for Italian rail company, Maurizio Furia, said the train carrying migrants and political activists wasn't being allowed to pass into Menton, France, from the border station of Ventimiglia. Italy lodged a protest with the French government, calling the move "illegitimate and in clear violation of general European principles."
Foreign Minister Franco Frattini ordered his envoy in Paris "to express the strong protest of the Italian government".
Italy has been giving temporary residence permits to many of the roughly 26,000 Tunisians who have gone to Italy to escape unrest in northern Africa in recent weeks.
Many of the Tunisians have family ties or friends in France, and the Italian government says the permits should allow the Tunisians to go there under accords among many European countries.
France says it will honour the permits only if the migrants prove they can financially support themselves, and it has instituted patrols on the Italian border.