French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb condemned on Saturday the "gestures" by the French anti-immigration group Generation Identitaire that blocked the Italy-France border in the Alps region to stop migrants from crossing into France.
"I condemn the gestures (by Generation Identitaire) at Col de l'Echelle (in the Hautes-Alpes region at the Italo-French border). Only government authorities have the right to take action in our territory."
But for the group, the fact that Collomb cited their action during a speech at the National Assembly was a win.
In a statement published on Sunday, they said that their operation had made the government react about the "massive immigration."
"All that was needed what a hundred determined young people to stop migrants from crossing at the Col de l'Echelle [...] The government has clearly recognised the situation highlighted by Generation Identitaire and was obliged to react."
Last Saturday, up to 100 activists from the anti-immigration group gathered at Col de l'Echelle in the French Alps to prevent immigrants crossing the border from Italy — an operation they called 'Defend Europe'.
"The 'Defend Europe' missions are meant to make the government reinforce the borders (in places where there's a great influx of illegal immigrants)," a group spokesman told Euronews over a Facebook message.
"The wave of economic migrants is getting bigger and bigger and is the main reason for our loss of French and European identity but also the main cause of violence (in Europe)," they added.
The group posted a photo on Twitter showing activists backed by helicopters, blocking the passage.
"Generation Identitaire blocks the passage at the Franco-Italian border. Operation Defend Europe is on its way," the tweet claims.
The group told Euronews that their operation doesn't have a finish date for the moment and that they haven't planned any similar actions elsewhere in France for now.
The Haute-Alps prefecture, the region where the incident occurred, said on Saturday they were monitoring the situation and that everything was "unfolding calmly" and that "some of the militants were already leaving the premises".
"Around 80 to 100 members from the group Generation Identitaire have come to Col de L'Echelle' to materialise the border between France and Italy with the help of an orange plastic net and a banner. Authories are monitoring the operation in order to stop any violent clash and guarantee public order. Until now, everything's unfolded calmly," said the statement.
Euronews has reached out to the local police and the regional prosecutor's office for comment.