BERLIN: Desperate migrants and refugees gathered at the Italian border with France are being thwarted in their attempts to cross the frontier and reach northern Europe.
Tighter border controls by the French authorities have created a bottleneck around the Italian town of Ventimiglia, just a few miles from the French border. The Italians are trying to transfer migrants and refugees to reception centres in other parts of the country to prevent the development of ramshackle camps such as the notorious "Jungle" in Calais and the tent village at Idomeni, along the border between Greece and Macedonia.
"Our border with France will not become another Calais," Angelino Alfano, the Italian interior minister, told La Repubblica newspaper.
There is increasing frustration among the refugees and migrants stuck at the border, many of whom are living in charity-run centres where they are provided with basic shelter and food. Others are living on rocky shoals on the Italian side of the frontier, hoping to make a clandestine crossing.
Hundreds of migrants are also stranded on Italy's border with Switzerland, where they had hoped to claim asylum.
Blocked from crossing the frontier by the Italian authorities, around 400 are camping out in a park in the lakeside town of Como, which traditionally attracts well-heeled visitors during the summer months, most notably George Clooney and his British human rights lawyer wife, Amal.
Mario Lucini, the mayor of Como, said yesterday that the situation was becoming "worrying".
But the refugees and migrants are determined to cross the border. Many are in search of relations already living in northern Europe.
"I had a small shop in Addis Ababa but I had to flee with my wife and three children," said Ahmed, an Ethiopian.
"In Ethiopia they throw you into prison for no reason, they confiscate land from farmers and sell it to foreigners, we could not stay. It took us months and months to get here. We are refugees; the Swiss will help us."
In Ventimiglia, some have even resorted to plunging into the sea in a desperate attempt to circumvent border police and reach French territory.
Around 150 who jumped into the sea were returned by the French authorities to Italy at the weekend. The migrants, many from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan, are supported by an international activist group, No Borders.
In recent days Italian police have confiscated a small arsenal of weapons from the activists, including clubs, knives, axes and wrenches. They also seized a skeleton-like glove equipped with three long blades, suggestive of the action film character Wolverine.
France insists that under EU rules, the migrants who landed in Italy should remain there while they make their claims for asylum or refugee status.
Around 94,000 migrants and refugees, most of them African, have reached Italy so far this year from the coast of Libya and, to a lesser extent, neighbouring Egypt.