Migrant death fears in Alps as weather worsens but crossings continue

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By Robert Hackwill
Migrant death fears in Alps as weather worsens but crossings continue

In the depth of the northern winter many migrants are making perilous trans-alpine journeys to get into Europe on foot.

More and more are being discovered on freezing back roads in the dead of night, or have to be rescued when they get into difficulties. Mountain guides say if measures are not taken soon, lives will be lost.

Volunteers are out helping people, but they have to careful not to attract attention from the police.

Many migrants are being picked up making their way into France across the Italian border, but for some it is a journey that ends badly, like Mamadou Bam from Mali.

The recent heavy snows have made the journey even more dangerous. Mamadou needed to have both his feet amputated after he got caught on the Echelle Pass in March 2016, more than a mile above sea level.

He is now getting the medical attention he needs, but the price he has paid to enter Europe is very high.

"We got there, we were blocked in the snow, there was too much. We couldnt go anywhere, back or forward. I tried to stand up, I fell, I tried to stand up and fell. My feet were frozen up until the knee, I couldn't feel anything. I didn`'t know snow burns," he says.

Now Mamadou cannot stay standing longer than two hours, yet he considers himself one of the lucky ones. At least he is not rotting in some camp in Greece or Italy.

Local man Jean-Paul Borel has already been arrested for helping refugees cross over. Helping illegal migrants is an offence in France.

"The migrants who have to pass this way are taking more and more risks. If things continue like this, I think there will be deaths this winter."

So beautiful yet so deadly, the Alps are a formidible barrier.