Police clear migrant camp on France-Italy border

A man walking past a banner in a migrant and refugee encampment in Ventimiglia on the Italian-French border on Sept 15, 2015.
A man walking past a banner in a migrant and refugee encampment in Ventimiglia on the Italian-French border on Sept 15, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

VENTIMIGLIA, Italy (AFP) - Italian police cleared a camp of migrants and activists from the border of France and Italy on Wednesday with the occupants moving to rocks on the shoreline to avoid arrest, an AFP journalist said.

The camp of around 50 people at Ventimiglia - the town which became a flashpoint at the start of Europe's migrant crisis earlier this year - was cleared because its occupants were using electricity and water without paying for it, a police spokesman said.

Some 30 migrants and 20 Italian activists, who had been warned ahead of the evacuation, moved to the coastal rocks before dawn to be well clear once police arrived at nearly 6:30am, deputy police chief Giuseppe Maggese said.

A cordon of about thirty policemen stood along the shoreline in front of the migrants, some of whom were threatening to jump into the sea, while others held up a banner in English reading: "we want freedom to cross the border." "They have to move, I'm not sure at the moment where they'll be taken... but this situation could not go on. We understand why they are protesting but the camp was illegal," Ventimiglia mayor Enrico Ioculano told Italian media.

The camp holds up to 250 people depending on the day, according to local officials, who said a number of people had left on Tuesday afternoon after news of the impending evacuation broke.

Tents and personal belongings from the camp - which sprawls under an overpass some 100 meters from the French border - were being removed by garbage trucks.