Migrants risk their lives crossing the Alps to reach France

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Migrants risk their lives to reach France
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Migrants risk their lives to reach France
Cars pass through a tunnel on the Italian-French border from where migrants have attempted to pass into France, near the Mediterranean coastal town of Ventimiglia in northern Italy, December 2, 2017. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola SEARCH "MODOLA ALPS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Migrants discuss their day having crossed part of the Alps mountain range from Italy into France, in the shelter centre of the organisation Tous Migrants (All Migrants) in the town of Briancon in southeastern France, December 22, 2017. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola SEARCH "MODOLA ALPS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
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, December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola SEARCH "MODOLA ALPS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Abdullhai, 38 (R) and Abu, 23 (front L), migrants from Guinea, talk and use their mobile phones in their room the day after crossing part of the Alps mountain range from Italy into France, in the shelter centre of the organisation Tous Migrants (All Migrants) in the town of Briancon in southeastern France, December 22, 2017. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola SEARCH "MODOLA ALPS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Abdurahman, a migrant from Guinea, walks in snow after crossing part of the Alps mountain range from Italy into France, near the town of Nevache in southeastern France, December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola SEARCH "MODOLA ALPS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Migrants walk through snow as they attempt to cross part of the Alps mountain range from Italy into France, near the town of Bardonecchia in northern Italy, December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola SEARCH "MODOLA ALPS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Abdullhai, 38, from Guinea, attempts to cross part of the Alps mountain range from Italy into France, near the town of Nevache in southeastern France, December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola SEARCH "MODOLA ALPS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Kamarra, 28 (L), from Guinea and a group of other migrants rest and warm up by a fire in a cave after crossing part of the Alps mountain range from Italy into France, near the town of Nevache in southeastern France, December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola SEARCH "MODOLA ALPS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Migrants walk through snow as they attempt to cross part of the Alps mountain range from Italy into France, near the town of Bardonecchia in northern Italy, December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola SEARCH "MODOLA ALPS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Abdullhai, 38 (L), and Abdurahman, migrants from Guinea walk along with another group as they pass an Italian man during an attempt to cross part of the Alps mountain range from Italy into France, near the town of Bardonecchia in northern Italy, December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola SEARCH "MODOLA ALPS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Abdullhai, 38, from Guinea, rests after crossing part of the Alps mountain range from Italy into France, near the town of Nevache in southeastern France, December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola SEARCH "MODOLA ALPS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Migrants rest after having crossed part of the Alps mountain range from Italy into France, near the town of Nevache in southeastern France, December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola SEARCH "MODOLA ALPS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Migrants mostly from the Darfur region of western Sudan warm up by a fire under a highway bypass where they have been sheltering from the weather as they prepare to attempt to cross the Italian border into France, in the Mediterranean coastal town of Ventimiglia, northern Italy, December 3, 2017. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola SEARCH "MODOLA ALPS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Snow covers the beginning of a mountain pass from where migrants try to cross from Italy into France, near the town of Bardonecchia in northern Italy, December 19, 2017. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola SEARCH "MODOLA ALPS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Migrants mostly from the Darfur region of western Sudan warm up by a fire under a highway bypass where they have been sheltering from the weather as they prepare to attempt to cross the Italian border into France, in the Mediterranean coastal town of Ventimiglia, northern Italy, December 3, 2017. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola SEARCH "MODOLA ALPS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A sign that warns of avalanche dangers protrudes from the snow on a mountain pass where migrants try to cross from Italy into France, near the town of Bardonecchia in northern Italy, December 20, 2017. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola SEARCH "MODOLA ALPS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A helicopter belonging to the French police searches for migrants attempting to cross part of the Alps mountain range from Italy into France, near the town of Bardonecchia in northern Italy, December 20, 2017. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola SEARCH "MODOLA ALPS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Aid volunteers from the Italian Catholic relief organisation Caritas give hot tea and bread with jam to a group of migrants in the Mediterranean coastal town of Ventimiglia, northern Italy, December 4, 2017. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola SEARCH "MODOLA ALPS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A man prays on a river bank after spending the night under a highway bypass from where migrants of mostly North African origins prepare to attempt to cross the Italian border into France, in the Mediterranean coastal town of Ventimiglia, northern Italy, December 4, 2017. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola SEARCH "MODOLA ALPS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Discarded clothes are seen by a mountain pass near the Italian-French border from where migrants have attempted to pass into France, near the Mediterranean coastal town of Ventimiglia in northern Italy, December 2, 2017. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola SEARCH "MODOLA ALPS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Migrants walk through snow after crossing part of the Alps mountain range from Italy into France, near the town of Nevache in southeastern France, December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola SEARCH "MODOLA ALPS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
A man washes himself in a cold river after spending the night under a highway bypass from where migrants of mostly North African origins prepare to attempt to cross the Italian border into France, in the Mediterranean coastal town of Ventimiglia, northern Italy, December 4, 2017. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola SEARCH "MODOLA ALPS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
A migrant rests after crossing part of the Alps mountain range from Italy into France, near the town of Nevache in southeastern France, December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola SEARCH "MODOLA ALPS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
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BARDONECCHIA, Italy, Jan 11 (Reuters) - It took Abdullhai almost three years to get from his home in Guinea 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 -9C (15°F) temperatures in clothing ill-suited to the terrain.

Abdullhai, 38, is one of hundreds of migrants who over the last year 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. His group crossed into France in December.

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

"Our life in Guinea is not good," said Abdullhai, 38, who like his friends asked that his last name not be published in this story.

"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."

The number of migrants making perilous journeys has fallen since over one million arrived in Europe from the Middle East and Africa in 2015. There were 171,635 arrivals by boat officially recorded in 2017, down from 363,504 in 2016.

As the group huddled around a fire in a cave during a rest on their journey, others told stories of being jailed and tortured, or of being orphaned and looking at uncertain futures in their home country.

The crossings have become more perilous with heavy snowfall.

On Jan. 10, Reuters spoke with three migrants, a 24-year-old Senegalese man, a 31-year-old man from the Democratic Republic of Congo and a 37-year-old from Pakistan 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 Organisation 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, from Guinea, 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."

(Additional reporting by Eleanor Biles; Writing by Mark Hanrahan in London; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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