Unfortunately we have misplaced our notes from the 12th November so we can’t include them here.
We have still been at the “breakfast spot” close to the border every day from 9am-8pm. Here we meet everyone who has been pushed back to Italy from France and give food, drink, a space to relax, information, links to other organisations and, in some special cases when we can, help to claim their right to cross the border legally (for example if we meet minors or French asylum seekers). We also monitor pushbacks and take testimonies of illegal police behaviour and violence.
In these 6 days, 420 people came to “breakfast”, of which:
312 were pushbacked from France*
108 came from Ventimiglia or the area**
11 were women
3 were accompanied children (from 3 families)
at least 12 were unaccompanied minors* at least 5 had papers allowing them to stay in France (for example, were in the asylum seeking process in France)* at least 1 was taken by the police from France, when he had not recently crossed the border
These numbers will be higher than the number of individuals we meet as we may meet some individuals multiple times.
Each day we saw between 48 and 86 people at breakfast, of which between 37 and 69 were pushbacks.
*all pushbacks (the return of people crossing the border back to Italy by French security forces) are illegal in the way they are carried out as they do not follow the process mandatory according to French law
**some people come to “breakfast” intentionally to eat, relax and find information, not because they have just been pushed back. These people come for a variety of reasons. Some are spending some days resting before trying to cross again, some are pausing to rest and eat before they try to cross the border on foot, while some want to stay in Italy but due to either not having papers or the lack of support with housing and finances for people in the asylum process, they still benefit from coming to “breakfast”.
*** if minors are pushed back there is another specific process that must be followed by law. This process is never followed. Instead, for the minors we meet, the French police have always changed the date of birth on their paperwork to make them adults and pushed them back illegally. This happens even if minors have documents or fingerprints proving their age.
**** some people who have the right to be in France find themselves in Italy for various reasons. When they try to return, the police sometimes tell them that they cannot when this is untrue.
*****occasionally, people in the border area of France are controlled and are sent to Italy for not having the right papers (or sometimes even if they do), despite not having crossed from Italy at all, or not in the recent past.
In this week, we took these reports of violent, degrading and illegal behaviour from the French police:
13/11/20: two Tunisian minors had their documents proving their minority taken and not returned by the French police at the French police station at the border when they were pushed back to France. The minors did not have any copies or photos of the documents.
15/11/20: a woman from Ivory Coast and her young daughter were pepper sprayed by the French police. There were 2 other adults and 1 child with them when this happened. According to the woman we met, the other child was lying on the floor at the French police station at the border after they were pepper sprayed and the police had to call an ambulance.
15/11/20: two minors from West Africa were stopped on the train coming to France. They told the police they were minors but were subject to an aggressive and humiliating body search at the train station. The police told them there was no space for them in France. Their documents proving their minority (a birth certificate and their documents from the minors camp where they had been registered in Italy) were taken and not returned. When they were told to leave the police station, they tried to ask for their documents back but they were told if they didn’t leave they would be put back into the containers. When we met them, we took them back to the border and asked the Italian police to check their fingerprints to show they were registered as minors in Italy but they refused. The Italian police told us to talk to the French police. The French police then claimed the minors had never had documents and that we needed to leave or we could be arrested. The next day the boys took the train again with photos of their documents on their phone. They were again taken by the French police who again refused to accept them as minors. When they were pushed back to Italy, the Italian police chose to check their fingerprints, saw they were minors and sent them back to the French police who then had no choice but to accept them as minors. However, they were then kept for 48 hours in custody at the border before transferring them to minor’s accommodation.
17/11/20: a man who lives in Nice (and has the right to stay in France because he is in process to get his papers) was on the train and was taken by the police in Cap d’Ail. He was then taken to the police station at the border and then sent into Italy, despite not having come from Italy. He didn’t have his I.D. card on him but he did have a French bank card, healthcare card and electricity bill. He also had an official letter about his immigration procedures with his lawyers phone number on. The police took this letter and didn’t return it; they told him he should find a lawyer in Italy. On his refus d’entree, they said he was apprehended in Menton Garavan (not Cap d’Ail) and that he posed a danger for the security of the nation. This is not a pushback – this man was essentially abducted from France and illegally expelled.
17/11/20: an Egyptian man was pushed back into Italy. He was taken on the train in Cannes (so outside of the border area) by plain-clothed police (he presumed they were police but they never showed him any I.D). He was taken in an unmarked car to the police station at the border by a long and indirect route.
18/11/20: a Nigerian man who is claiming asylum in France (with documents proving this) tried to cross back into France. His documents were taken and not returned by the French police and he was pushed back into Italy.
We also have had several reports of people being kept in the containers at the French police station at the border for an extremely long time including: from some time in the night until 4pm, from 6am until 5pm and from midnight until 5.30pm.
As we expected, Covid restrictions have made some situations worse. For example, the bus that people can take from the border to Ventimiglia (it is 8km away) now has vastly reduced capacity, leading to people not being allowed onto the bus and having to walk or we need to drive them. Even more worryingly, the Italian police are now more and more refusing to check the fingerprints of minors registered in Italy to confirm they are minors and take them to the French police so they can be taken into care by the French state. They claim this is because of Covid. This represents one less way we can use to help minors claim their legal rights to cross the border.
Other than breakfast, some activities we have taken part in this past week are:
For the second week in a row, we cooked and distributed food in Ventimiglia on Wednesday evening.
We attended the “Pushbacks and Rights Violations at Europe’s Borders: from Evidence to Action” webinar.
We rescued our cars that had been stuck in the Roya Valley in France because of the floods.
We started to prepare our new flat to be ready to be an office/communal/storage space and sleeping place for a few people.
As always, let us know if you have any questions or you want to get involved by coming to join us or by donating or organising fundraisers. And please help us to expose the brutal and illegal practices going on at the border by spreading the word!
Bank account: GLS Bank
Depositor: Frederik Bösing
IBAN: DE32 4306 0967 2072 1059 00