Refugees and migrants seeking to reach northern Europe have opened up a new route, crossing from northern Italy’s picturesque great lakes region, renowned as a playground for celebrities such as George Clooney, across the border into Switzerland.
With the Balkan route to Germany shut down since March and Austria and France imposing stringent controls along their borders, migrants stuck in Italy after crossing the Mediterranean from Libya have seized on the route into southern Switzerland.
But Switzerland is now beefing up its border security, deploying border guards and a drone, an Aerospace Ranger Su-27, to fly over the region in an attempt to catch the migrants.
Refugees have camped out in parks and other public spaces in the town of Como, close to where Mr Clooney and his British wife Amal have a lakeside house, in the hope of crossing the border into Switzerland.
Dozens have been living rough around Como’s train station, including small children and babies. In just two weeks this month, more than 1,300 were stopped at the border.
In the first six months of the year there have been more than 14,000 illegal entries, or attempted entries, into Switzerland. Migrants who are caught are sent back to Italy.
Tighter controls on the trains that run between the two countries means that some are resorting to hiking remote trails through the mountains in a bid to evade Italian and Swiss authorities.
That can be arduous in the summer but will become much more dangerous in the winter, when snow covers the mountains.
“They are the same paths that Italian Jews used to flee during the war,” one local in the village of Dumenza, between Lake Maggiore and the Swiss frontier, told La Stampa newspaper.
Most of the asylum seekers have travelled the length of Italy from Sicily, where they landed after being rescued in the Mediterranean by Italian and other EU naval vessels.
“My friends in Germany told me that you can cross the border here. I’ve tried three times,” Samira, a 27-year-old Eritrean woman, told La Stampa. “But in a railway station in Switzerland they took my fingerprints and sent me back. I won’t stop trying though.”
Italy is struggling to deal with the thousands of migrants and refugees who are rescued in the Mediterranean each week and brought to ports in Sicily and elsewhere in the south.
So far this year, around 84,000 have been intercepted in rubber dinghies and ex-fishing boats and brought to the safety of dry land.
There are more than 130,000 migrants living in reception centres in Italy, waiting to hear if they will be granted asylum or expelled.
Some lose patience, walk out of the facilities and head north under their own steam.
As the exodus across the Mediterranean continues, so too does the constant stream of fatalities. On Thursday, rescuers found the bodies of 17 migrants in one of the many smuggling vessels that was intercepted at sea.
The grisly discovery came a day after 22 corpses were found floating in water and spilled fuel in the bottom of a rubber dinghy.
They were reportedly trampled by other migrants who started panicking when they realised the boat was sinking.
The victims drowned in just 12 inches of seawater sloshing in the bottom of the boat. They were found by the crew of the MS Aquarius, a vessel operated by the charity Medecins Sans Frontieres and a French NGO, SOS Mediterranee.
Of the 22 dead, 21 were women and one was a man. The bodies were taken to the port of Trapani, Sicily, on Friday, with Red Cross officials holding roses and standing in silence.
The corpses were lifted into wooden coffins and loaded into hearses.
So far this year, nearly 3,000 migrants and refugees have died in the Mediterranean – a dramatic increase on the 1,870 who died last year.
“This is the earliest that we have seen the 3,000 (deaths) mark, this occurred in September of 2014 and October of 2015,” said Joel Millman of the International Organisation for Migration. “So for this to be happening even before the end of July is quite alarming.”