Migrants travel through the French Alps trying to cross the boarder

The majority of the migrants don’t have proper boots and clothes to face the dangerous hike in the snowy mountains and Alpine rescuers both in Italy and France are at work to help them.

In the last three months between 1,500 and 2,000 migrants have tried to illegally cross the border between Italy and France, passing through the Alps defying bad weather conditions and low temperatures.

Often, even if the migrants succeed in the crossing, they are arrested by French police and brought back to Italy.

The Associated Press followed a group of six migrants on 29 December in their attempt to cross the border through the Col de l’Echelle mountain pass near Bardonecchia.

Among them was Ismail Anel, a 17 year old, from Guinea.

Anel arrived in Italy in July 2017 and spent a few months in a migrants centre near Bologna before trying to reach France.

In addition to Anel, the group was composed of three other unaccompanied minors – one 17 year old from Tunisia and two 15 year olds from Guinea.

There were also two adults from Guinea and Ivory Coast.

The group spent the night in a temporary shelter in the former custom house of the Bardonecchia train station and early in the morning undertook the journey through the snowy mountains.

The six migrants walked for around four kilometres from Bardonecchia to the beginning of the trail to France, passing by ski fields and tourists.

The crossing place of Col de l’Echelle has an altitude of 1,762 metres.

Alberto Rabino, deputy commander of Alpine rescuers in Bardonecchia, explained that after the heavy snow falls of the last few weeks they received many phone calls from migrants lost in the snow.

The rescuers found people very badly equipped for the treacherous conditions – some didn’t even have shoes.

After four hours of walking, Anel and the others reached a mountain shelter where they took rest before continuing their trip until Briancon, a French village in the Hautes-Alpes department.

But they were some of the lucky ones.

One of the volunteers at the shelter in Briancon says people from different countries are not aware of how dangerous the mountain crossing is.

Joel Pruvot said that locals, who understand the danger, are coming together to look after the migrants.

Since the opening of the shelter in Briancon in July 2017, 2,000 migrants have passed through to eat some food or sleep for a night in a warm place before continuing the trip.

Volunteers say around 50 per cent of them were unaccompanied minors seeking protection in France.


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