Note: This article is from the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph.

(by Peter Allen, PARIS – In dramatic scenes in Menton, in south east France, border guards including riot police halted hundreds of mainly North African men who have crossed from Libya and Tunisia.

The trains on which they traveled and which also contained political activists calling for better rights for immigrants, were attempting to cross from the nearby Italian border station of Ventimiglia.

“Our orders are to cancel all services from Italy,” said a spokesman for the French national train operator SNCF.

He said the trains had been stopped on the orders of the Alpes-Maritimes Prefecture “until further notice”.

The Italian Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, directed his embassy in Paris to lodge a protest with France.

Mr Frattini said Rome wanted “clarifications on measures taken (by Paris) which appear to be illegal and in clear violation of European principles”.

It was the latest chapter in a bitter diplomatic dispute caused by the arrival of thousands of immigrants in Italy from Arab countries like Tunisia and Libya which have undergone revolutions this year.

Italy infuriated the French last week by giving out temporary residence visas, allowing the immigrants to travel in the European Union.

Many want to go to France because they speak French, and because they believe that President Nicolas Sarkozy’s approach to the war in Libya means he will be sympathetic to them.

But the French government insists it will only allow in those with the financial resources to live in France independently – a requirement which rules out most of those who have fled to Europe.

Security has been stepped up right across the Franco-Italian border, including along ancient foot paths linking the two countries.

Italian officials have confirmed that thousands of immigrants have been arrested by the French and then sent back to them over the past few weeks.

According to the EU’s Schengen agreement, which came into force in 1997, free movement of people is guaranteed across borders.

However, there is a clause which states that borders can be reinstated if there is a “serious threat to public security”, something which France’s Ministry of Justice believes is caused by hundreds of migrants arriving without warning.

The Italians believe that the French should accept refugees arriving on the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Many are massing in Ventimiglia, which the French media has already likened to Sangatte – the Red Cross Centre in Calais which acted as a magnet to thousands of migrants hoping to reach Britain before being closed in 2002.

Mr Frattini has already attacked France’s “absence of solidarity” while some MEPs [Members of European Parliament] have said France had no right to send migrants back to Italy.

Since the start of the Arab uprisings in January, some 20,000 illegal migrants have arrived on Lampedusa, roughly midway between Sicily and Tunisia.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has sent ferries to clear the island.

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1. Why do many of the Tunisian and Libyans who traveled to Italy illegally ultimately want to go to France?

2. How did the Italian government assist the immigrants to travel legally in Europe?

3. Why is the French government blocking all of the immigrants from entering France?

4. a) What is the European Union’s Schengen agreement?
b) What clause of the Schengen agreement allows France to block the North Africans from entering France?

5. You can’t blame the Tunisians and Libyans for trying to get to Europe to make a better life for themselves and/or their families.  You also can’t blame the Italian or French governments from being unwilling to take an unknown number of illegal immigrants when they have their own problems with unemployment and financial challenges.  Between 20,000 to 30,000 North Africans have traveled to the Italian island of Lampedusa so far. If European countries accept them, more would likely come.
What do you think the European Union should do (as a group of countries) to deal with these men in a reasonable way?



  • The European Union (EU) [created in 1993] is an economic and political union of 27 member states which are located primarily in Europe.
  • The EU operates through a hybrid system of supranational independent institutions and intergovernmentally made decisions negotiated by the member states.
  • Important institutions of the EU include the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, the European Council, the Court of Justice of the European Union, and the European Central Bank.
  • The European Parliament is elected every five years by EU citizens.
  • The EU has developed a single market through a standardized system of laws which apply in all member states including the abolition of passport controls within the Schengen area.
  • It ensures the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital, enacts legislation in justice and home affairs, and maintains common policies on trade, agriculture, fisheries and regional development. (from wikipedia)


  • Before 1914, it was possible to travel from Paris [France] to Saint Petersburg [Russia] without a passport.
  • When the First World War came to an end, the practice of issuing passports and performing routine passport controls at national frontiers remained and became the norm in Europe until the creation of the Schengen Area in 1995.
  • The Schengen Agreement created Europe’s borderless Schengen Area which operates very much like a single state for international travel with border controls for travellers travelling in and out of the area, but with no internal border controls.
  • The borderless zone created by the Schengen Agreements, the Schengen Area, currently consists of 25 European countries, covering a population of over 400 million people and an area of 1,664,911 square miles. (from wikipedia)


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