Italian police have cleared a makeshift migrant encampment near the French border. The camp in Ventimiglia was formed after France in June set up border checks to prevent onward movement of migrants.
The camp was cleared early Wednesday as some migrants gathered along the seaside and protested, with one banner reading "We want freedom to cross the border."
Some 50 migrants - mostly from Africa - and activists remained by the time the police arrived. Many others in the camp that holds up to 250 people had left following a police warning on Tuesday.
"They have to move, I'm not sure at the moment where they'll be taken... but this situation could not go on. We understand why they are protesting but the camp was illegal," Ventimiglia Mayor Enrico Ioculano told Italian media.
A police spokesperson said the camp was being cleared because the migrants were using electricity and water without paying.
The sprawling tent camp became the center of a row between France and Italy earlier this summer. Paris heightened border checks between the two Schengen zone countries in June to prevent the migrants from entering its territory. The Schengen zone allows for passport-free travel between member states.
France did not want to let the migrants cross the border because the EU's so-called Dublin rules require the country where migrants first entered the EU to register and process asylum applications.
Many migrants, not wanting to register in Italy where job prospects are weak, attempt to enter richer northern European countries before applying for refuge. Italy has been accused of letting the migrants head north to avoid the financial burden of handling asylum cases.
Both Italy and Greece as well as Balkan and central European countries have been at the forefront of a wave of migrants trying to flee economic hardship and conflict in Africa and the Middle East. Out of nearly 500,000 migrants who have arrived in Europe this year, at least 130,000 have arrived on Italy's shores after braving the dangerous sea journey across the Mediterranean.
Last week, the EU agreed to a contentious plan to redistribute 120,000 asylum seekers to ease the burden on Italy and Greece. The plan will also set up "hotspots," or reception centers in countries where migrants first enter the EU to determine whether they are economic migrants to be deported or asylum seekers in need of protection.
cw/sms (AFP, Reuters)