ITALY’S far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has accused France of pushing two unaccompanied child migrants back into Italy, further straining relations with Paris. Mr Salvini, the head of Italy’s ultra-conservative League party, said on Twitter: “France tried to send child migrants back to Italy: this happened on October 18, at 10.30pm, but we managed to block the procedure.”
A Hautes-Alpes prefecture spokesman on Wednesday rejected the Italian’s accusations that French border agents had pushed the youths back into the Italian town of Claviere, adding the unaccompanied minors were “systematically taken to local reception centres for children and not handed back to the Italian authorities”.
The spokesman stressed the children had not – as claimed by Mr Salvini – been turned away at the Franco-Italian border but “taken to a shelter”, adding: “This was the case for two minors on October 18.”
Tensions between Rome and Paris have reached boiling point in recent months, with Italy’s populist government accusing France and other member states of failing to share the burden of the hundreds of thousands of migrants who have reached Italy by boat since 2013.
While French President Emmanuel Macron has denounced Italy’s anti-immigrant policies, positioning himself as the “main opponent” to Europe’s nationalists, Mr Salvini has accused him of encouraging illegal immigration and of turning a blind eye to Europe’s migration crisis.
This is not the first time Mr Salvini has accused France of using Italy as a ‘dumping’ ground for migrants.
Last week, he branded France an “international disgrace” for having driven two migrants across its border and “dumping” them in Italy.
Witnesses reported seeing a French police van cross the mountain border at Claviere, and making two African migrants get out in a wooded area before driving back to France.
The head of the Hautes-Alpes region admitted that its police had crossed the border, calling the incursion an honest mistake.
Cecile Bigot-Dekeyzer said: “It was an error to enter Italian territory without the authorisation of the Italian police.
“We manage our shared border together and there are occasional small regrettable incidents on both sides,” was the French presidency’s response.
Mr Salvini, for his part, said on Saturday that extra police officers had been deployed to “control and guard” the shared border.
Thousands of migrants are caught each year trying to enter France and returned to the Italian border.
France has sent back to Italy more than 45,000 migrants since January, according to the French interior ministry.