Hundreds of refugees are facing a severe lack of sanitation and police brutality on the border between Italy and France, in what experts say is a situation “worse than the Jungle”, The Independent can reveal.
An estimated 700 displaced people, including scores of unaccompanied children, are currently in the Italian city of Ventimiglia. Many of them are living in conditions that are “wholly inadequate”, with an “acute” lack of clean drinking water or sanitation facilities.
New research seen exclusively by The Independent reveals that intensified brutality from Italian and French police and a lack of accessible healthcare means young refugees also face an “alarming” level of danger coupled with dwindling levels of physical and mental health, with the majority of people unable to access medical care.
Researchers from the Refugee Rights Data Project (RRDP), who carried out the study, said Ventimiglia was one of the worst refugee locations they had been to, describing the situation as “terrifying” and urging that more must be done to improve the inhumane situation.
The in-depth study surveyed 150 male refugees in the area, one-in-five respondents of whom was under the age of 18, and 90 per cent were there alone without friends or family members.
The majority (73 per cent) had been in Ventimiglia for between one and three months at the time of the study, after arriving in Libya and travelling through Italy. The largest country group were from Sudan, followed by individuals from Chad, Ethiopia and Eritrea.
The absence of women and girls reflects the very small number of female refugees, which researchers said could be attributed to the extent of sex trafficking in southern Italy and North Africa.
Sometimes dubbed the “Italian Calais”, Ventimiglia is a well-known transit point for refugees and displaced people trying to enter France. A bottleneck has developed there in recent years since France declared a state of emergency and closed its borders in 2015, making passage more difficult.
The closed border means displaced people are making fewer attempts to reach France by train, instead taking their chances with the so called “Pass of Death” through the mountains, or walking through motorway tunnels.