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London-bound migrant 'solidarity' march leaves Italian border town

La Cimade | File photo of a "solidarity climb" organised in support of migrants seeking to cross the Alps in December 2017.

A "solidarity" march in support of migrants left the Italian border town of Ventimiglia on Monday, marking the start of a 1,400 kilometre journey across France to the northern port city of Calais and then on to London.

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Linking two symbolic flashpoints of Europe’s migrant crisis, the two-month-long treck is organized by French charity L’Auberge des migrants and supported by numerous NGOs including Emmaus and ATTAC.

Scores of people are expected to take part in the 60 stages of the procession, which aims to raise awareness of the plight of migrants and collect funds to help them.

“The aim of this march is to talk to people as we walk along and explain to them why welcoming [migrants] is a necessity,” said prominent French activist and EU lawmaker José Bové.

“It’s not by erecting walls and barriers that we can improve people’s lives,” he added. “There are wars, victims of climate change, and victims of economic crisis; these people are on the move because they have no other choice.”

Also in the march, French bishop Jacques Gaillot expressed his “admiration for the many men and women who open their hearts and doors to welcome refugees.”

Gaillot added: “They don’t threaten us. It is them who are threatened.”

Before setting off, the marchers held a minute of silence in memory of the 17 migrants who have died since June 2015 while trying to cross the border between Ventimiglia and Menton, using roads, railways and treacherous mountain paths.

The first leg will take the caravan to Breil-sur-Roya, on the French side of the border. The marchers are expected to reach Nice on May 3, Marseille on the 12th, Lyon on the 24th and Paris on June 17.

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