French customs police agents in Bardonecchia, Italy
French customs police agents in Bardonecchia, Italy

France has once again highlighted that "there was no violation of Italian sovereignty" regarding the Bardonecchia case. This week a meeting is planned between the customs directors of both countries.

France is reiterating that in Bardonecchia "there was no violation of Italian sovereignty", according to French Public Accounts Minister Gerald Darmanin. The statement comes a few days after a raid by French customs agents in the Piedmont town's train station, where an NGO runs a border migrant clinic.

Read the full details about the case here: mbassador-over-incident-at-border-migrant-clinic 

 "There was only a strict application of the 1990 accord that allows for making controls from one part of the border to the other," Darmanin said. He added that "the fact that the area was recently made available to an NGO does not change the fact that it remains available to French customs agents". This week, France's Director-General of Customs, Rodolphe Gintz, will be in Italy to meet with his Italian counterpart and "restore the agreement, which is now suspended". 

Turin prefect says NGO doing 'excellent work'

 Meanwhile, Turin Prefect Renato Saccone visited with volunteers of the NGO in question, Rainbow4Africa, in Bardonecchia. "I wanted to thank them for the excellent work that they're doing in a project that came from the institutions and is managed by the city," he said. Saccone said an investigation has been opened into the French customs agents' raid. For now the probe has been filed against unknown persons because the specific agents involved in the raid have not been identified. 

The investigation could be performed rapidly if French authorities cooperate; otherwise, a letters rogatory may have to be issued to ask the French judiciary for assistance in the matter. The prosecutor's office is moving forward with charges of abuse of office, domestic violence, trespassing, and, if there are grounds for it, also illegal search.

 NGO's work continues 

Statements from workers at Rainbow4Africa, the NGO operating in the station, will make up part of the investigative report. In the meantime, the NGO provided clarification via Twitter: "Most of the people who have come to us in Bardonecchia - over a thousand - are not illegal, but rather asylum seekers, and as such, holders of temporary stay permits. 

The purpose of the project, in addition to providing healthcare assistance, is to dissuade migrants in attempting to cross the border. In an accord with the prefecture, the city, and ASGI (the Association for Judicial Studies on Immigration), we try to convince them not to attempt crossing the Alpine passes because it is risky," it said. Prefect Saccone insists that the volunteers are doing "a great job". Their job shows no signs of stopping in the near future, either: in recent hours an underage migrant was rescued.

"The project won't stop," Bardonecchia Mayor Francesco Avato said. "Our goal is to continue to work so that our town doesn't become a new Ventimiglia," he said. Saccone did not comment regarding the border dispute. "I'm only here on a visit," he said. He is expected in coming days to meet with his French counterpart, the mayor of Chambery. 

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