ITALIAN police in riot gear have forcibly removed a few dozen African migrants who had been camping out for days at the Mediterranean border with France.

Some of the migrants protested, grabbing onto signposts, while others had to be carried off – a violent scene that Italy used to show the rest of Europe that it needs to do more to deal with the continent’s migrant crisis.

“We are human beings. We are not animals,” said Saddam, a Sudanese migrant who watched the police operation on Tuesday at the Ventimiglia border crossing and only gave his first name. “I know we are black and we are come from Africa, but we are still humans.”

Migrants on the rocks jutting out into the sea were left alone, with police apparently unwilling to move into that more treacherous location. The rest were loaded onto a Red Cross bus and taken to the nearby train station.

It was not immediately clear why the Red Cross allowed their bus to be used for the police operation.

The would-be refugees, mostly from Sudan and Eritrea, had camped out for five days after French border police refused to let them cross.

They had refused to leave, saying they want to find family members elsewhere in Europe. Under EU rules, would-be refugees are supposed to be fingerprinted and apply for asylum in the first EU country where they land.

Many new migrants, however, prefer to slip through Italy without being officially registered so they can head further north where they might find better job opportunities while their asylum claims are being processed.

Italian interior minster Angelino Alfano, arriving at an EU interior ministers’ meeting in Luxembourg, said the scenes from Ventimiglia were proof that migrants do not want to stay in Italy.

Italy, which has borne the brunt of rescuing migrants at sea and providing initial assistance to them, is demanding that other European countries take in the migrants and let them apply for asylum elsewhere.

The country has seen 54,000 migrants land so far this year, according to refugee agencies. But many other EU nations are resisting an EU proposal to help.

In response, France has reinforced its border controls over the past few weeks.

Italy is urging reluctant European Union partners to sign up to a plan to share 40,000 refugees, as French police forcibly removed migrants trying to cross their common border.

Italian interior minister Angelino Alfano called for solidarity with front-line countries Italy and Greece as tens of thousands of migrants cross the Mediterranean in search of sanctuary in the EU.

He said Italy is "working to avoid the political bankruptcy of Europe".

Alfano met with fellow EU interior ministers in Luxembourg to debate a plan for obligatory relocation of Syrian and Eritrean refugees to other European countries over the next two years.

Only about 10 of the EU's 28 nations support the plan, and even those who do disagree with the calculations for distributing the refugees.