Around one hundred Tunisian immigrants staged a protest in the Italian border town of Ventimiglia on Saturday against what they said was a French policy to turn away would-be asylum seekers.
The immigrants were transferred to the town close to the French border from the tiny island of Lampedusa.
But living conditions appear to be no better than what they left behind.
One Tunisian immigrant told the crowd: “I have risked my life on a makeshift boat with despair and when I arrived in Italy I found I had nothing.”
France is home to Europe’s largest North African community and an estimated 600,00 [sic] Tunisians live there.
Ahmed, a Tunisian would-be asylum seeker, got as far as Monaco, only to be picked up by police and sent back to Italy.
“We do not want to steal or do anything,” he said. “We just want safety. We want Europe to welcome us.”
Italy says it cannot cope with the influx on its own and wants France and other European partners to do more to help.
EU interior ministers will debate the issue at a meeting in Luxembourg on April the 11th.
Some 20,000 Tunisians have reached Lampedusa since January’s popular uprising that ousted former president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.
The tiny island has a population of just 5,000 and is only 260 kilometres off Tunisia’s east coast.