Fifteen far-left anarchists from Italy and France were removed from a church on the French-Italian border where they were believed to have sheltered and helped illegal immigrants.
The anarchists had occupied the church in the Italian border town of Claviere in the Susa valley since April and had been using the building as a shelter for migrants attempting to cross the border illegally from Italy into France, Il Giornale reports.
Italian Carabinieri raided the church and forcibly evicted the far-left activists earlier this week and also found two illegal migrants who were sheltering in the church.
The eviction of the pro-mass migration activists comes months after parish priest Angelo Bettoni had complained about the occupation of the church and filed a formal complaint. The process was sped up by the Interior Ministry which recently set its sights on clearing out illegally occupied buildings under a new decree from populist Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.
Franco Capra, mayor of Claviere, defended the police operation saying: “The eviction was necessary because the occupation was not good for migrants crossing the mountains, especially in winter it is dangerous.”
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“Among the occupants there are people who do it for noble ideals, but many of those who are there do it for other reasons: Being against the borders can also be right, but the illegal entry into France does not make sense for migrants because once identified are sent back to Italy,” he added.
The alpine border between Italy and France has become a hotspot for illegal migration after France largely attempted to shut down illegal migration from Italy in 2015 and in 2016. Despite the increased border controls, migrants have stormed the border on several occasions including in 2017 when 400 asylum seekers tried to force their way through near the town of Ventimiglia.
France once again promised to increase border controls in the area earlier this year when the hipster-right anti-mass migration activist group Generation Identitaire rented helicopters, trucks, and a plane to patrol a mountain pass for illegals, claiming the government was not doing enough to prevent crossings.