French Gendarmerie check the traffic to France from Italy | Photo: ARCHIVE/ANSA/LUCA ZENNARO
French Gendarmerie check the traffic to France from Italy | Photo: ARCHIVE/ANSA/LUCA ZENNARO

The bishop of Ventimiglia has criticized France over the "very negative consequences" of the suspension of the Schengen Accords along the country's border with Italy, citing discrimination in border control against African and Asian refugees compared with their Ukrainian counterparts.

An Italian bishop has firmly criticized France's suspension of the Schengen Accords along the country's border with Italy in an attempt to stem rising migrant flows. The decision is giving rise to "very negative consequences" and has become even more discriminatory against African and Asians following the start of the war in Ukraine, said the bishop of the border town of Ventimiglia, Antonio Suetta.

Caritas has estimated that an average of 150 migrants reach that crossing point every day. The estimate is based on the number that make use of the soup kitchen run by the charity for breakfast and lunch. Most of those arriving are Afghans, Iraqis, Kurds from various countries, and Ivory Coast nationals, according to Caritas.

'Only those with darker skin checked'

In a letter published on the diocese's website, Suetta noted that it has been seven years since -- on June 11, 2015 -- the French government suspended the Schengen Accords and restored border controls.

"This decision," he wrote in the letter, "renewed every six months, lasts and continues to produce very negative consequences -- especially against migrants transiting through but also indirectly on us."

"At the border," he said, "the request to see IDs is systematic but only for those of darker skin tones, with the resulting pushbacks and their remaining in the city. This has not, however, stopped migrants in these years; it has instead pushed them to make recourse to traffickers or risk their lives to avoid border checks. Unfortunately, dozens of people have died as a result: electrocuted on the roof of trains, falling from mountains, and having been hit by cars."

'Open new reception centers, urgently'

Suetta then stressed the difference in treatment between African and Asian refugees and their Ukrainian counterparts.

"The French government's decision has become even more 'strident'," he said, "since the war began in Ukraine, since Ukrainian refugees are given the right to move inside the European Union and choose where to seek refuge."

The bishop and Caritas both expressed the hope that, "while waiting for the rules to change, a new reception center will open to deal with a very complicated situation for migrants and for the territory, and for the sake of the dignity of those transiting through."

 

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