Border policing practices slammed after drowning of Nigerian woman in French Alps

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Earlier this month the body of a 20-year-old Nigerian woman was found floating in the river Durance, in the foothills of the French Alps. Blessing Matthew had crossed illegally into France from Italy along a treacherous route of mountain passes increasingly used by desperate migrants. From witness accounts, it appears likely that Blessing drowned in the icy waters of the Durance while attempting to escape from one of the frequent border patrols which local migrant support groups say employ dangerously heavy-handed methods. One week later, the body of a man believed to be a migrant was found on a nearby mountainside. Mathilde Mathieu reports from the Alpine region where it is feared the springtime thaw may reveal yet more fatalities.

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It was on May 9th when electricity workers discovered the body at a barrage across the icy cold waters of the Durance river, at the village of Saint-Martin-de-Queyrières in the foothills of the Alps in south-east France. The spot was about 15 kilometres downstream from where the river begins its course, at 2,400 metres, close to the border with Italy.