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Migrants risk death crossing Alps

China Daily | Updated: 2018-01-13 10:34
Migrants walk through snow on a steep ravine as they attempt to cross part of the Alps mountain range from Italy into France, near the town of Bardonecchia in northern Italy, on Dec 21. [Photo/Agencies]

BARDONECCHIA, Italy-It took Abdullhai almost three years to get from his home in Western Africa to a rocky, snow-covered Alpine mountain pass in the dead of winter, for what he hopes will be the final stage of his journey into France.

The terrain is steep and dangerous and he and a group of five other migrants face risks ranging from losing their footing on steep drops, being struck by falling rocks or succumbing to the-9 C temperatures.

Abdullhai, 38, is one of hundreds of migrants who have attempted to cross from Italy into France through high mountain passes, in a bid to evade increased border security put in place at easier crossing points.

He left behind his wife and three children, including a two-year old son whom he has never seen.

"There is no work there and no future for my children. Here in Europe we can have a future. We can find work and live a life with some dignity. This is worth a try for me," said Abdullhai, who like his friends asked that his last name not be published in this story.

On Wednesday, Reuters spoke with three migrants who were attempting to cross into France.

They managed to cross the border, but abandoned their trek, exhausted and despondent, and were returned to Italy.

But they are at least alive. The International Organization for Migration estimates that 20,000 people have died in the Mediterranean itself while trying to reach Italy.

Nor does it compare to the hardships that some of those making the journey have already endured to get as far as they have.

"I was imprisoned and tortured in Libya for many months. I was forced to work for free. Just look at my scars," said Kamarra, 28, lifting his shirt and pulling down his trousers at the side to show marks on his body and hip.

"After all that, crossing the Alps is not a big deal for me."

The number of migrants making perilous journeys has fallen since over 1 million arrived in Europe from the Middle East and Africa in 2015. There were 171,635 arrivals by boat officially recorded in 2017.

Heavy snowfall has made the crossing even more dangerous.

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