Lovely people out there!
Here’s an update of the situation at the french-italian border in April from Kesha Niya’s point of view.
This is a collective report, written by people who have been active with Kesha Niya for different periods of time. It is based on the stories that people on the move tell us, but they would certainly have written it very differently from us in terms of focus, choice of words and language. We try to work in solidarity with people on the move as much as possible, but we are also aware of the fact that most of the people active with Kesha Niya think, speak and write from a perspective of great privilege – most of us have documents and the majority of us perceive the world through being read as white. Although some of us have been active in the area for a long time, our understanding of the lived experiences of people on the move at the french-italian border remains very limited. Even the language this text was first written in – english – is a colonial language.
Since a few weeks (we already wrote about this in our last report), almost every train going to France from the Ventimiglia train station is controlled by various police forces – both Italian and French. This means that people without the “right” documents are, as we monitored it, not even allowed on the platforms. Often, only two traindoors are opened, and police officers control the documents of anyone who wants to enter.
As a consequence of this, a lot of people on the move find themselves stuck in Ventimiglia, and many people are frustrated and angry as a result. We also feel this change at our “breakfast spot” near the border: Fewer people get pushbacked, and more people visit us from Ventimiglia during the day and take the bus back to the city in the evening. Some people also stay at the breakfast spot overnight. While this is generally a very hard situation for people on the move, to us, there are also some positive aspects to it, because we meet the same people almost everyday and are more able to develop bonds and friendships while listening to music together, cooking, dancing, cutting vegetables and hair, chatting, reading and playing games.
But apart from these small moments of solidarity and joy we have together, the situation for people on the move in the area is an extremely shitty one: As there is no official camp structure in Ventimiglia anymore, and as hosting possibilities are limited in numbers and reserved for the most vulnerable groups such as woman, families with children and unaccompanied minors, the majority of the people on the move have to sleep outside. In recent weeks the weather has also been exceptionally wet, with a number of weeks with very heavy rain. Within this already difficult situation, state authorities thought it a good time to attack some of the few self-organized spaces for sleeping left in the area. One large squatted building was recently evicted by the police – the building’s inhabitants were forced to leave early in the morning, their personal belongings were piled up outside the buliding as if they were trash, windows and doors were barricaded and, as a result, many people have spent a number of cold, wet nights outside on the streets of Ventimiglia. On top of that, as all of the restaurants by the beach are reopening their terasses due to Ventimiglia turning into a “yellow-zone” – allowing tourists and people with official documents to dominate the streets once again – the many people on the move occupying those terasses will now have to look again for new places to spend their nights. The police were also quick to insist that the small number of tents at the breakfast spot where we are based be dismantled as well. Again, these events are just the more visible examples of the continual harrassment that undocumented people face within Europe that remains hidden to all but those directly affected by it.
Here is a non exhaustive list of specific incidents that individuals reported to us at the border spot:
3 people from pakistan told us that they were refused entery France, even though they had french documents and were living there.
One person from Somalia told us that he was kept in custody by the italian police for 24h without any food, only receiving tap water.
One man from senegal spoke up against the inhuman treatments he received from 5 french police officers that beat him, saying: “we are not animals, don’t treat us like that”.
3 people had their belongings (600€, 3 passports, phones, bankcarts) stolen while in french custody.
at least 2 persons had their belongings stolen while in french custody.
One minor (17 years old) that was already registered in italy as a minor, but had not documents with him, left the french custody with two different “refus d’entrés” (entrance refusal from french police).
italian police with batons controlled the bus tickets of the people on the move that wanted to go from the breakfast spot to Ventimiglia, and then escorted the bus away from the bus stop.
one person which lives in France and has all the right documents isn’t allowed to leave italy by the french police. Later on, the italian police took away his “refuse d’entré”.
We meet 5 people from bangladesh who reached Ventimiglia by walking the balkan route and got cought yesterday in Monaco. 3 of them payed a smuggler. the smuggler had told them that he would drive them over the border by car/truck. Instead, he brought them to the railway tracks by night, stole all their money and left them by themselves. they continued to walk along the tracks until they got caught by the french police.
1 person arrives at the breakfast spot with a bloody mouth. He tells us that the french police punched him in the face and then took away his health insurance card. they also lied about the place they caught him, saying it wasn’t France yet.
People reported police violences in Menton Garavan. They say that pepper spray and batons where used on them by the french police.
1 minor from guinea (17) tells us that the french police changed his birth date in his “refuse d’entré”.
3 people (1 from bangladesh & 2 from gambia) who came out of the container together told us that
“prison is better”.
“they treat us like animals!”
“food (‘baby portion’) after 8 hours sitting tightly with a lot of people in this small container”
1 man from Sudan spent the night in container and states that it was too cold to sleep, because the french police did not give out any blankets and refused to put on the heating system, even after being asked twice to do so. the man says he asked the person who works as a cleaner in the container to translate his demand to the french police, which only waved their hands and did not even respond to either the cleaner or the sudanese guy. he was caught by french military during his attempt to cross to france over the mountains. he says the military was actually quite friendly: they complimented him on his clean appearance and clothing style and recommended him to try to reach his destination (UK) over switzerland & germany instead of france. he responded: “yeah thanks for your opinion, if I had the money I would have come up with that myself”. he arrived in lampedusa on the 20th of february 2021, after 10 days on a quarantine ship. he has fingerprints in italy, but does not want to apply for asylum here. he is 30 years old, but the police made him 26 years on his “refuse d’entré”. he will try to go to france again soon and maybe then start research about switzerland.
again a lot of people who spent the night in french custody tell us they could not sleep in the container at all, because it was just too cold
we met one person with italian documents, who got pushbacked. he told us that some time ago he was able to cross the french border in an easier way, which made it also possible for him to work in nice from time to time. he lives in italy since 8 years and has a five year old son, who was born in italy
2 cops come and want to put the tents away
we meet a minor who tells us he has been awake since 3 days
people tell us that they walked on the railroads and that they felt their life endangered while inside the tunnels
we meet a couple from romania. they tell us that they were the only ones who were asked for a COVID-19 test while on the train, which they thought they would not need for the transit. so they had to leave the train and were brought to the border. they intend to go to spain, where they live
again one person tells us he was pushbacked even if he had the needed documents with him but no negative COVID-19 test
1 man says he showed the french border police a photo of his passport on his mobile phone – as a reaction they used teargas on him right onto his face
2 man from afganistan (20 and 23 years old) walk past our breakfast spot coming from ventimiglia in direction of the border. they tell us they have been in italy since 3 days, italian police took their fingerprints in Bolzana but didn’t offer help or information. they came to italy via the balkan route, which took them 10 months by walking. they spent 6 months in prison in slovakia for “crossing the border without documents”.
a man from Tunisia tells us that while he spent the last night in the container, the indoor part of it was so overcrowded, that the police made people sleep in the outside part of it, without any blankets or anything.
3 minors (16 years old) from Guinea were pushed back from France with altered dates of birth to deny their entries into France.
one person with italian papers and travel allowance inside europe was pushbacked while trying to visit his uncle, who is very sick and in the hospital in france. the date on his travel allowance card had expired the same day and the new card hasn’t arrived yet. he explained those circumstances to the french police, but they did not care.
Before ending this report, we would like to add a few words about some things our group and other solidarity structures have been doing recently in the area:
Since 3 weeks, people on the move in Ventimiglia receive incredible help from “DIRECT SUPPORT”. This is a group of activists who are supporting people on the move in the area with 1 Van giving the possibility to charge phones and giving free Wi-Fi, 1 Van to cook and distribute warm and delicious food, and one Medi-Bus with very much needed medical care by trained doctors and nurses. With this infrastructure they have provided a much needed daytime space in Ventimiglia, in a time where solidarity structures in the area are more limited. Thank you so much DIRECT SUPPORT!!
Through the presence of DIRECT SUPPORT, we found more time to focus on our group structure, which was of a great need, because the work we do at the border has high priority for us and is very demanding, in terms of time and emotional resources.
In the past weeks we’ve been able to start a critical masculinity round, and through this process we have written an introductory statement for new cis-male volunteers to read. At the same time we are trying to develop a anti-sexism-awareness and self-care-motivating as well as anti-racism library with zines and books (If you have any recommandations or want to donate us material, we’d be happy to hear from you). We also watched the documentary “Radical Reslience” together, which “is a film project by activists, for activists (or anyone involved in social or environmental change, however they define themselves), that aims to spread awareness and encourage discussion about the effects of burnout within our movements, both individually and collectively” https://radicalresilience.noblogs.org/about/ helping us to think about our own practices of collective care in the group.
thanks for following up with us until now!
that was a loooooong report! thank’s a lot for your time and energy 🙂
come queer, stay rebel & open borders, respect boundaries <3
Bank account: GLS Bank
Depositor: Frederik Bösing
IBAN: DE32 4306 0967 2072 1059 00
In the fotos we added you see:
1) personal belongings of people on the move who got evicted from a squatted building piled up outside the buliding as if they were trash
2) people in the process of barrciading windows and doors of the squatted building after the eviction to make it harder for people on the move to search shelter inside the house again
3) barricaded windows and doors
4) a new banner for the “breakfast spot” with basic information about Ventimiglia
5) the breakfast spot on a very foggy and rainy evening
6) the train station of ventimiglia with police blocking the doors while a advertisement on the train going to france says: “votre mobilité, notre priorité” (in engl.: your mobility, our priority”)