Tienda Gourmet

Migrants: on Italian soil, the gray areas of a French police station

Its specificity? France is accused of locking up migrants there to hand them over to the Italian police, “outside any legal framework”.

The building, a glazed rectangular block, wedged between the toll of the tunnel which leads to France and the mountain road which winds towards the Italian village of Bardonecchia, is shared by the French border police (Paf) and the Italian authorities.

The part in which the French police officers place candidates for exile consists of a long black bench, a table, two computers and a few chairs.

This is where these people are taken, mostly low cost bus rides.

Others are arrested aboard BlaBlaCar or hidden in trucks.

La Paf writes a document attesting to a “refusal of entry” into French territory and contacts the Italian police, who sometimes show up only the next day to take them to the Bardonecchia police station.

“We are going to intercept people on Italian soil, to inform them of an offense that has not yet been committed. And above all, it takes away a certain number of rights from people who could have had the possibility of applying for asylum, for example. We are outside any legal framework”, fulminates to AFP the senator of Isère Guillaume Gontard, at the exit of the premises which he visited Monday afternoon, alerted by the associative fabric.

– 8,000 rejections in 2021 –

“We cannot leave, in a state of law, legal vagueness like that. Besides, we do not really know what to call this place. But it remains a place of deprivation of liberty and arbitrary detention. We must clarify the legal framework of this place, otherwise, we cannot arrest or detain people here”, adds the president of the environmental group, solidarity and territories in the Senate.

Those apprehended “are not subject to any deprivation of liberty since they can at any time return to the territory from which they come”, disputes the Ministry of the Interior to AFP.

The “non-admissions” issued by the Paf in this building which houses the Juxtaposed National Control Office (BCNJ) have been perfectly legal since the restoration of internal border controls in 2015, the ministry continues.

There were 8,072 in 2021, under “administrative arrangements” which are based on a 1965 decree and a “convention between France and Italy relating to BCNJ”, providing that checks are possible in this area as “on the territory of the neighboring state”, namely France, we underline Place Beauvau.

Clearly, it is “French law that applies” on this Italian plot, assured the divisional commander of the Paf Stéphane Queval, questioned Monday morning by the senator during a visit to another local, a place detention adjacent to the Modane railway station (Savoie), bordering Italy.

– “Human dramas” –

The associations have just discovered the existence of the place when the Council of State is seized by the defenders of migrants, who denounce the illegality of the restoration of controls at the internal borders since the attacks of November 2015.

“It is not a waiting area, a police custody room, nor a detention center. However, we practice refoulements there”, observes Amélie Blanchot, of the national association of assistance at the borders for the foreigners (Anafé).

“The problem, (…) is that there is no access to rights and one wonders how many other places like that exist, out of sight”, adds the association , which has never been able to enter the building while it intervenes for example in that of the Paf in Modane.

Those who are turned back “find themselves in Oulx (an Italian border town which serves as an antechamber for the clandestine crossing, Editor’s note) and then pass through the mountains of Montgenèvre”, adds Myriam Laïdouni-Denis, vice-president of Anvita ( National Association of Welcoming Cities and Territories), who visited the premises with Guillaume Gontard.

“So this legal vagueness leads to a chain of non-access to rights that ends in human tragedies.”

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