Some words on human dignity at the French-Italian border, January 2021.

The new year started and winter continues. Since we see more cold and
rainy days and nights, our working spot at the border is changing like
the weather, as people have to adapt. Especially as it is the first year
since 2016 without a camp to stay, people on the go are using the safe
spaces they find to sleep whenever they can. This includes our working
space 1 km before the french border, directly next to the main street
leading from the border to Ventimiglia.
Aditionally to access to food, drinks, medical help and general
information, since december we are able to give clothes, blankets and
sleeping bags on a daily basis. We can enable this due to constant money
donations and ressources brought by our volunteers coming from different
countries and by locals!
Every night now we see few people sleeping at ,,breakfast,, , as they
have no other place to go and wait for us to come in the morning again.
Others stay for the night to continue their way early in the morning.
This is all happening directly next to the main street leading from the
french border to Ventimiglia. Other people continue to chose the beach
of Ventimiglia, space under the bridge, empty houses or places close to
the train station.
For us, it means more maintaining of the space to keep it clean. People
who stay over night leave blankets, clothes and luggage behind to not be
hindered by it when they try again to cross the french-italian border.
As a reaction to freezing nights and being constantly in outside
temperatures, even in the police station for at minimum 12 hours at
night, people make fires starting in the evening up until the next
morning. Not necessarily in our place, but all around short term
sleeping places of the city.
Two days ago, a fire broke out in Ventimiglia due to a person making a
fire to keep away the cold
All of this resulted in the police stopping by on several days to remind
us to put down our rain roof, put the fires out in the morning and clean
up the space. There seem to be endless capacities to check up on us and
what we should not do, while we try to use our capacities in a situation
where the italian and french government (as any other european
government) doesn’t seem to have any interest to fulfill the most basic
needs of human beings. Should this be the work of foreign, mostly young
people coming to work in the name of Kesha Niya in the area?  Who are
mostly without a propper break or propper sleep but strongly invested in
what is just a small piece of proposed support to everybody who finds
him*herself on an ignorant and violent journey through Europe, anonymous
in a system which doesn’t recognize as being alive if you don’t have the
right document?
This should not be our place. The struggle people go through should be
everyones, but especially of those who agreed on taking responsibility
on their country, including people who chose to step into this land in
search for something. Grass root organisations, active local
individuals, NGOs etc are replacing the government where it fails to to
react. And additionally, where it actively choses to violate rights
fixed in the own law, and where it violates human dignity.

Some more concrete reports on this:

After being catched in the trains, in cars or walking somewhere, people
are put in the police station in small spaces we call ,,containers,,.
They can not use their right to claim asylum in France, every right they
should have is ignored. They are either held for some hours during the
day and then just pushed back, and if catched between 6 pm and 7 am,
they are held the whole night. Often, they are held for 12 to 17 hours
up to one full day. Now suddenly we heard on three different days from
people reporting us about being in the station for 48 hours (!). As
anybody else, without food, water, sanitary facilities, blankets, a
place to sleep, medical aid. In outside temperatures, in a place which
is built out of stones and metal. 5 persons were reporting to be held
for two full days on the 28th of december, the 2nd and the 7th of
On the 29th of december, a group of young guys report to be catched in a
truck going to France at night. After being stopped, polices writes
numbers from 1 to 5 on their hands to distinguish them. When they
arrive, we still can see the numbers on their hands.

On the 30th of december: 5 guys are arrested by police. They are put in
the backseats of a police car, all 5 together. When they ask to have
more space, police replies that they came all together from Africa,
squeezed into a small boat, so it should not be a problem.

On the 1st of january, one person is body checked while its raining, in
front of a building. He is asking to be checked inside, in a dry space.
Police is beating him up for that request.

Next to illegal pushbacks of minors in particular, we talk to one man
who is already in asylum process in France. On th e8th of january,
police takes his attestation that proves that and doesnt give it back.

Following, you find the numbers of the last two weeks which we counted
at the border. These numbers are quite accurate for everybody who was
welcomed at ,,breakfast,, and allmost everybody who was pushed back from
France to Italy will spend time at our border point.

In the week from the 28th of december to 3rd of january, we met just 222
people at the border, of those 190 pushbacks and 32 coming from other
places around to eat and chat. It is a very low number, as it was for
example difficult in this time to travel inside Italy, and italian
regions were closed during ,,red,, Corona zone.
Of these 222 people, we counted just one woman and two minors.

In the week from the 4th of january to the 10th of january, everything
was going back to normal with numbers that were significantly higher. We
counted 603 people, of those 518 being pushed back and 85 coming from
different places. Of all those, 41 were women, 17 children and at least
10 minors, but we couldn’t keep track of every underage person this
week. The highest number of people coming in one day was 158.

Remember that the number of individuals being pushed back is way lower,
as people try and are arrested for several days and we meet them almost
never just one time.

We are happy that we are now up to a high number of volunteers again, as
numbers of people at the border increase rapidly. Also police forces are
back to normal. We can continue our work in a good way and will have
capacities also to be more present in Ventimiglia and the area, to check
up on people who are just arriving or stuck somewhere without any other
way to go.

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