French and British volunteers arrested for giving food to migrants in Italy

A British and two French volunteers were arrested in Italy while distributing food to migrants which is banned in the town of Ventimiglia near the border with France, their association and police said on Thursday.

French and British volunteers arrested for giving food to migrants in Italy
A French volunteer distributing food to migrants in Ventimiglia in 2016. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

The three voluntary workers were charged with violating a city order.

“We were about ten people but they took the two drivers of the vehicles which had the food and Simon, a Briton who had forgotten his passport,” said one of them, Gerard Bonnet, 64.

“They took our fingerprints, a photo and released us,” he said.

Police in Ventimiglia, which has become a migrant bottleneck, told AFP the three had been arrested late on Monday for distributing food to the migrants, an offence which could lead to a fine of up 206 euros ($222). There is also a rarely used, three-month jail sentence available.

Map showing the location of Ventimiglia, which lies close to the French-Italian border.

“This activity has been banned by a decree from the mayor of Ventimiglia,” police said.

The mayor instituted the ban on distributing food to migrants in the summer of 2015 when their arrivals, at first sporadic, began to block the train station, according to city hall.

It insisted that the mayor had taken that action for sanitary reasons.

“He didn't take the decision lightly. The unregulated distribution of food poses problems,” city officials who declined to be named told AFP.

They pointed out that migrants can find assistance at a Red Cross camp outside the town and also from the Catholic charity Caritas.

The arrested volunteers were with the Roya Citoyenne (citizen) rights group in the Roya valley on the French-Italian border.

On the night of the arrests the group distributed 160 food bags including, apples and cans of tuna as well as some clothing for the migrants.

Since 2015 Europe has seen its worst migration crisis since World War II with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.

Ventimiglia has seen protests by migrants, many of whom hope to travel through France to northern Europe, where they may have friends and relatives or think they would have better job prospects.

There have also been clashes between police and activists, leading to the death of one police officer in August 2016.

The crisis has also seen several people arrested for people-smuggling between Italy and France, some claiming they were acting for humanitarian purposes and others charging migrants exorbitant fees.


 Italian police arrest mafia member after three women killed in Rome

Italian police on Saturday arrested a mafia member suspected of killing two alleged Chinese prostitutes and a Colombian sex worker in Rome, local media reported.

 Italian police arrest mafia member after three women killed in Rome

The bodies of the two Chinese women were discovered in a residential building in the upmarket Prati district on Thursday morning, while the body of the South American was found in an apartment in the same neighbourhood an hour later.

All three victims were stabbed, according to Italian media reports.

According to the Corriere della Sera newspaper, footage from surveillance cameras allowed police to identify 51-year-old Giandavide De Pau, who had been prosecuted in the past for drug trafficking and sexual assault.

The suspect is reportedly a member of a mafia clan headed by Michele Senese, who is currently serving a life sentence. De Pau is believed to have been one of Senese’s closest collaborators, acting as his personal driver and handyman.

In 2008 and 2011, the suspect had also spent time in a psychiatric hospital.

It is unknown whether the suspected killer was carrying out a mafia hit or acting alone, possibly under the influence of drugs, which were found at the home of some family members where he is believed to have sought refuge after the police manhunt got underway, Corriere della Sera reported.

Several newspapers had warned of a possible “serial killer” in the Italian capital.

The body of one of the Chinese victims was spotted by a neighbour where it lay, naked on a landing. The woman, believed to be in her 40s, had suffered head and stomach injuries, the newspaper said.

When police entered her apartment, they found the body of the second Chinese woman.

Nobody in the building appeared to have heard the murders take place, according to residents.

“Everybody knew there was a house of ill repute here, I’d see people arriving at 2:00 am, 3:00 am,” a woman who lived in the building told reporters.

The body of the Colombian, who was 65, was found by a friend, Corriere della Sera said.