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Snow 'sentinels' keep watch over migrants risking life and limb to cross Alps from Italy to France

Migrants arriving in France from Italy via the ski slopes of Montgenevre Credit: Bruno Fert

As night fell, Jean-Gabriel Ravary trudged through thick snow up the mountain pass of col de l’Echelle separating France from Italy.

After 42 years as a mountain guide, the 66-year-old could walk these Alps in his sleep.

Yet even he carefully skirted two avalanche corridors, leaving the comfort of husky sleigh tracks to head into virgin snow.

Past a plaque in memory of wartime resistance fighters who held this pass against the Italians, a tiny chapel emerged in the light cast by the headlamp.

Dedicated to Our Lady of Bonrencontre, protector of travellers, it was once a refuge from bandits. Today, it offers respite for a different type of unexpected visitor: migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa.

After France reinserted border controls with Italy in the wake of the Paris 2015 terror attacks, migrants sought to cross in the Ventimiglia-Menton area on the southern coast.

On the way to the Col de l'Echelle Credit: Bruno Fert/Telegraph

But as police cracked down...

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