Two Italian photojournalists were detained in the night between April 5 and 6 by French Gendarmerie officials while reporting a story on a group of migrants who were trying to reach France from Claviere, near Turin. French authorities accused the pair of being migrant smugglers.
Two Italian photojournalists said they were arrested in the night between April 5 and 6 and forced to spend the night in a prison cell, without shoes, and questioned twice by authorities before being released.
The two reporters, Michele Lapini and Valerio Muscella, were detained by French Gendarmerie officials while they were documenting how a group of migrants -- five young Afghans and three Iranians -- were trying to cross the border with France from Claviere (Turin).
"We were photographing them and didn't realize we had crossed the border because there were no visible signs," said Lapini. "Then at one point they turned into a little road in the woods and suddenly the French Gendarmerie officers appeared out of nowhere."
Reporters questioned separately
"The refugees were immediately stopped and taken to the barracks of the Montgenevre border, to then be sent back, while we showed them our AIRF card (Italian association of photo reporters) to make them understand our profession. Everything seemed to be all right but then they took us to the barracks", said the reporters.
An official suspected that they were smugglers and told them that a prosecutor needed to decide on their release.
"They put us in two different security cells, with the light always on," said Lapini. "Then in the morning, after 4, they questioned us separately, they wanted to know if we had taken money from the migrants."
No document on the episode
After convincing authorities that they were photojournalists, the two Italians were released at around 11 am on April 6, "without being given a document on what had occurred," stressed Lapini, who lives and works in Bologna.
"Every night French police pushes back dozens of migrants, not only young people like those we were reporting on, but also families with children who walk kilometers on mountain trails in the middle of the snow. That is the real drama," highlighted Lapini.