Oxfam claims French border police cut the soles off children's shoes

A french police van sits at the Italian border.
A french police van sits at the Italian border. Photo credit: Reuters

A new report by Oxfam has accused French border police of a raft of cruel practices against migrant children.

Officers have allegedly detained children in cells without food or water, cut the soles off their shoes and stolen their cell phones' sim cards before illegally sending them back to Italy, the Guardian reports.

"We don't have evidence of violent physical abuse, but many [children] have recounted being pushed and shoved or shouted at in a language they don't understand," Giulia Capitani, the report's author, told the Guardian.

"And in other ways the border police intimidate them - for example, cutting the soles off their shoes is a way of saying, 'Don't try to come back'."

Many children attempt to cross from Italy to France via the city of Ventimiglia. They're forced to choose between crossing the border via train, or taking the ominously named 'passage of death' mountain path.

Discarded clothes litter a mountain path between Italy and France.
Discarded clothes litter a mountain path between Italy and France. Photo credit: Reuters

Charities estimate at least 12 children have died in the last year trying to cross into France, including a 17-year-old from Sudan who drowned in a river.

France has spent most of the week in a battle of words with Italy over how to manage migrants after Italy refused to let a ship carrying 629 people dock.

"There is a degree of cynicism and irresponsibility in the Italian government's behaviour with regard to this dramatic humanitarian situation," a French government spokesman quoted President Emmanuel Macron as telling his cabinet.

"Italy cannot accept hypocritical lessons from countries that have always preferred to turn their backs when it comes to immigration," Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte responded in a statement.

The pair is due to meet in Paris this Friday (local time).

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