ROME (Reuters) – Italy on Saturday protested to France over a incident in which French border police entered a clinic run by a non-governmental organization that cares for migrants trying to cross the Alps, the foreign ministry said.
The episode angered many politicians, some of whom saw it as a violation of Italian territory.
The ministry, which had earlier summoned the French ambassador for an explanation, said in a statement that it had conveyed the Rome government’s “firm protest for the behavior of the French customs agents, which was unacceptable …”
The NGO, Rainbow for Africa, said that on Friday evening the French brought a Nigerian migrant to the railway station of the Italian border town of Bardonecchia.
The NGO said they entered the clinic, which is in the train station, and conducted a urine test on the man because they suspected him of drug trafficking.
The foreign ministry said France had been told earlier this month that the station was no longer accessible for its police because it was now being used for humanitarian purposes.
In their account of the incident, French customs said they had the written consent of the man for the test and the NGO had also given them permission to use the facilities for it. The test was negative.
French customs said they had followed regulations and were ready to clarify with the Italians any legal and operational procedures to avoid future incidents.
Massimiliano Fedriga of the right-wing League, which made big gains in recent elections, said the French had made Italy look like the laughing stock of Europe.
“French police do whatever they want on Italian territory without being disturbed, as if they are at home. What happened in Bardonecchia is grave and shows how our so-called friends in Europe have little or no consideration for us,” he said in a statement.
Reporting By Philip Pullella; Additional reporting by Leigh Thomas in Paris; Editing by Andrew Bolton and Stephen Powell