Hello again from Kesha Niya,
Sorry for the delay in publishing this report. Hopefully the next report will also be out soon.
In this period, we have hosted “breakfast” at the border everyday from 9am-8pm, providing food, drink, information and a space to relax, while monitoring the situation at the border and taking testimonies of illegal police behaviour. As ever, the illegal incidents that we report here only reflect the incidents that people have shared with us, and may exclude any number of additional incidents.
In these 9 days, 620 people came to breakfast, of which:
22 were women (of which 11 were travelling with their family, and 11 were alone or with friends)
12 were accompanied children (from 7 families)
At least 8 were unaccompanied minors
Some of these people were pushed back by the police from the border and some came from Ventimiglia or other directions. Recently, there has been an increase in people coming to breakfast from places other than the border. Some of these people seem to be hoping to cross the border but are coming to breakfast in between attempts to try to eat and rest. Others have no intention to cross the border but due to not having papers, or because they are in the asylum process but there is very limited support in Italy, still need access to food and other services we provide. Some people we met were at breakfast for the first time and some we had seen several times before so were counted several times in our total number, meaning the number of individuals we have met is probably much lower than 620. We are working to monitor more clearly who is pushed back and who comes from elsewhere so in the next report the numbers will be more insightful.
In this period, we have received 4 reports of police violence, which were:
4/11/20: one man was slapped by the French police
4/11/20: a Maroccan man was slapped by the French police for talking too much
8/11/20: a Maroccan man was taken to a room in the French police station after insulting a police officer. Five French police officers punched him until he fell down. One officer then kicked him in the face. When we saw him he was bleeding from the mouth and had 3 broken teeth.
9/11/20: three men and one minor were pepper sprayed by the French police when taking the train from Ventimiglia to Menton. This led to two of them leaving their bags on the train as they rushed to escape the pepper spray. One of the bags had the birth certificate of the minor inside.
As always, the reports of being kept in the containers at the police station are not positive. We have heard that water was not given, even if asked for, that telephones were taken away, and that there was no, little or very poor quality food.
We have received 2 specific reports of illegal police behaviour. These incidents are in addition to the fact that all pushbacks are illegal here as they do not follow the procedure mandatory according to French law. Moreover, all eight unaccompanied minors that we met had been given false adult date of births on their papers from the French police. Some of these minors had documents proving their minority and, even without documents, if people crossing the border declare that they are the minor, legally the police must accept this until an official age assessment can be done. For all minors pushed back to Italy, the French police have illegally claimed they are adults. The two additional incidents of illegal police behaviour were:
3/11/20: a Somalian man who has claimed asylum in France and who has a valid document to prove his asylum seeker status was apprehended in the border area in France, taken to the police station at the border and taken to Italy, despite him having been living in France and not having just crossed the border. As an asylum seeker in France he has the right to be in France for the duration of the asylum process. The French police at the border took his asylum seeking document and tore it up. When they sent him to Italy, they didn’t give him a “refus d’entree” – the paper that documents the pushback that all people who are pushed back to Italy must be given by law. Therefore, it is impossible to prove that he was taken from France by the police and didn’t leave France voluntarily. It is not uncommon for the French police not to give a “refus d’entree” if they commit a particularly illegal pushback or if they expel someone from France in this way – in this way, they cannot be held accountable.
8/11/20: a Somalian man who is an asylum seeker in France, who accidentally found himself in Italy and tried to cross back to France, was pushed back to Italy. They said they didn’t believe it was him on his asylum seeker document and they refused to check his fingerprints which would have proved his status.
Of the unaccompanied minors that we met, we managed to help 2 to cross legally with the help of our lawyer.
In general, these have been slightly quieter days than before – we have seen on average around 70 people each day – perhaps linked to the lockdown in France and restrictions in Italy. People may not choose not to travel at this time if they have a choice, as on both sides of the border there is currently very high levels of policing making crossing the border without papers more difficult. We have also heard of checks being carried out on the train in Ventimiglia, meaning that some people may be trying to cross but not even getting the opportunity to make it to the border, so we do not meet them.
On the 11th November, Liguria (the region we work in) became an “orange zone” – increasing the restrictions. This means there is still a curfew from 10pm to 5am and more businesses are closed, but also that moving between regions and within the region without a valid reason is no longer allowed. It remains to be seen exactly how this will affect the people trying to cross to France or our ability to continue working. For the moment, we are continuing as normal.
In Ventimiglia, there is increased tensions after a robbery that took place a few days ago. The mayor, who is very hostile to migrants, has vowed to become tougher on the issue. Additionally, we have heard some reports of North African people being checked without provocation for papers on the street and being arrested. Worryingly, it feels perhaps that Ventimiglia is becoming an even more hostile environment for the people on the move here.
As a group, we have grown slightly in numbers, meaning that there is less pressure on individuals and that we can perhaps take on more work in addition to being present at the border. This week, for the first time in over a month, Kesha Niya cooked and distributed food one evening in Ventimiglia (the food distribution takes place every day and is still mostly carried out by other associations). We hope we can continue to be involved in this work. The weather has been beautiful and we are somewhat closer to improving our living situation so there are reasons to be positive, even if the situation at the border and in Ventimiglia remains bleak.
As always, more people and more money will allow us to continue and improve our work, so if you are able, please come join us or donate! And please help us expose the illegal police activity that goes on here by spreading the word!
Bank account: GLS Bank
Depositor: Frederik Bösing
IBAN: DE32 4306 0967 2072 1059 00