France's top administrative court has rejected a complaint in support of migrants stranded on the country's Italian border. Checking travelers' documents does not violate freedom of travel in Europe, the court said.
The legal challenge had been initiated by several rights groups, concerned about the fate of between 150 and 200 of mostly African refugees who had been prevented from going into France. For weeks, French police have been turning the migrants back to Italy, forcing them to camp out near the Italian border post of Ventimiglia.
However, the Paris court on Monday rejected the activists' notion that identity and visa controls were contrary to the Schengen agreement, which is a document governing Europe's passport-free zone.
"The suppression of systematic interior border controls in the Schengen area does not prevent French authorities from carrying out identity controls," the State Council said in a statement.
Actions of the French police did not "exceed the legal framework," according to the court, despite the freedom of travel.
"These controls are thus not equivalent to the implementation of a permanent and systematic control at the French-Italian border," the statement added.
The migrants have become a source of international tension between Paris and Rome, illustrating the problem facing EU in controlling the recent rush of immigrants within its borders.
According to the current regulations, migrants are required to apply for asylum in the first EU country in which they set foot. The so-called Dublin agreement thus puts a large part of the financial burden on countries like Greece and Italy, who are still struggling with recession.
However, many migrants attempt to continue their journey further north, towards richer European countries. On several occasions, the Italian government had to respond to allegations that they were letting the refugees move on.
Earlier in June, French President Francois Hollande said that officials were "applying the rules" by conducting stricter controls on the border with Italy.
Some 60,000 migrants have arrived on Italian shores this year alone.
dj/msh (dpa, AFP)