Access to the territory and push backs



Forum Réfugiés - Cosi

There are occasional reports of people simply being refused entry at the border. Since 2015, the French police has implemented operations to close the border and to prevent asylum seekers coming from Italy from entering France. The closure of the border has been maintained in 2016 and the police operations have been reinforced, especially after the July 2016 terrorist attack in Nice. Many migrants are daily arrested in the French-Italian border area. According to the District Attorney, between 60 and 150 people are arrested each day, mainly from Sudan or Eritrea, an 8% increase according the Prefect.1 95% of them are pushed back to Italy.2 During the year 2016, an approximate 35,000 people attempting to cross the border have been arrested, up 40% from numbers in 2015.3

Some camps have been settled at the border. Local organisations have supported the asylum seekers by housing them in an abandoned leisure camp in Saint-Dalmas-de-Tende. This camp was dismantled in October 2016 and 60 persons have been arrested.4 This dismantlement has been operated without violence, according to the NGO Roya Citoyenne. The Prefecture affirmed that the unaccompanied minors housed in the camp had been orientated towards adapted structures.5

The French Red Cross runs an accommodation centre in Ventimiglia but National Association of Assistance at the Border for Foreigners (ANAFE) reported that the asylum seekers did not want to be housed there because fingerprinting was a compulsory condition for entering. In addition, it seemed that only the persons who wanted to lodge an asylum claim in Italy were authorised to be accommodated.6

The situation is under pressure in Nice and its surroundings. Some ‘No border’ activists facilitate the crossing of the border and can be arrested. In August 2016, they helped 400 migrants to leave the Red Cross camp based in Ventimiglia to enter France. Some of the activists have been arrested and testified of police violence.7

ANAFE has reported abuses regarding the right to lodge a claim. A young Cameroonian national has been denied the right to lodge his claim because he did not enter with a visa. The border police in Bordeaux has indeed refused to give him the asylum claim form because he did not enter legally in France.8 In Beauvais, two Syrian brothers were not allowed to lodge their asylum claim by the police until the intervention of ANAFE.9

Following a fact-finding mission from 19 to 26 January 2017, Amnesty International France has issued a report denouncing the increasing number of push backs on the French-Italian border.10 In most reported cases, the majority of persons stopped at the border originated from Sudan, Eritrea and Afghanistan. Despite this, refusal of entry decisions were predominantly communicated in French, thereby not in a language understood by the persons concerned.11 Those who sought to apply for asylum were placed in the waiting zone of Nice.

  • 1. Le Point, ‘Nice : de plus en plus de migrants tentent de passer par les montagnes’, 6 September 2016, available in French at:
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Amnesty International France, Des contrôles au confins du droit : Violations des droits humains à la frontière francaise avec l’Italie, Febraury 2017, available in French at:, 2.
  • 4. Nice-Matin, ‘La bataille se poursuit pour les migrants expulsés d’un village dans l’arrière-pays’, 21 October 2016, available in French at:
  • 5. Ibid.
  • 6. ANAFE, Voyage au centre des zones d’attente, November 2016, available in French at:, 80-81.
  • 7. Le Figaro, ‘Migrants : à la frontière franco-italienne, la pression monte’, 8 August 2016, available in French at:
  • 8. ANAFE, Voyage au centre des zones d’attente, November 2016, 35.
  • 9. Ibid, 42.
  • 10. Amnesty International France, Des contrôles au confins du droit, February 2017.
  • 11. Ibid, 5.

About AIDA

The Asylum Information Database (AIDA) is a database managed by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), containing information on asylum procedures, reception conditions, detenti