Kesha Niya (Sorani Kurdish for ‘No Problem’) is a grassroots volunteer-run project and collective. We work in solidarity with people migrating to and within Europe and we are currently active at the Italian-French border.
We began in March 2016 in Grande Synthe in Northern France, providing hot food to the mostly Kurdish population of “La Linière” refugee camp, where people lived in difficult circumstances, waiting for their chance to go the UK. We proudly worked alongside camp residents to provide three meals a day, as well as a tea tent, a tandoori bakery and other services.
In the end of March 2017, we closed our kitchen – with a heavy heart – in order to regroup, reorganize and continue our project at the next location: the Italian-French border. We have been here ever since, operating in the Ventimiglia area of Italy.
Since 2015, France has controlled its border with Italy as if it was an external Schengen border and people crossing the border without the “right” papers have been pushed back to Italy by the French police. This practice is illegal – the French police cannot summarily remove people from France without following legal processes and giving people the right to claim asylum, and France cannot legally deny anyone entry at this border as it is within Schengen – yet pushbacks continue to this day on a huge scale. These pushbacks are regularly accompanied by police violence, illegally long detention times at the police station, extremely poor conditions in the holding containers, confiscation of people’s documents, falsifying of minor’s dates of birth and other brutal, illegal practices. The result of this practice is that the Ventimiglia area becomes a hotspot of people on the move as they are blocked from continuing their journeys.
After the move, we mostly focused on preparing and distributing hot food in Ventimiglia. Then, after some time, we began our “breakfast” project – which now makes up the majority of our work, now that other associations take care of most of the nightly hot food distributions.
At “breakfast”, we are present almost 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, close to the French border. We are situated on the only route from the French border police station to Ventimiglia, meaning we come into contact with all the people who have recently been pushed back into Italy. Here, we provide food, drink, rest, legal information, some clothes and bedding, hosting possibilities and signposting to other organisations. We also monitor the pushback situation and people’s treatment by the police, and we share this information with relevant actors and in our regular reports on the situation at the border.
We are motivated by the belief that the current border regime stands in the way of freedom, safety and human rights for all. Borders breed hatred and prejudice, and endanger lives and wellbeing; Fortress Europe is responsible for the deaths and suffering of countless people, including at the Italian-French border. As a collective of mostly Europeans, we feel shame and anger at the policies and practices that make Europe a brutal, hostile, deadly place to people who wish or have to come here.
We work at this border in an attempt to show solidarity to migrating people, to make people’s journeys slightly more comfortable, to help people claim their legal rights and to hold the authorities to account when they act brutally and illegally.
We try to work in a non-hierarchical way – within the collective and in our work with people on the move. We believe that hierarchies based on race, nationality and papers are endemic throughout European society, including in humanitarian work and activism. We hope to be conscious of this and try to operate in solidarity with people on the move, in our principles and in our practices. We are wary not to treat migrants as victims or people in need of charity or saving. Instead, we try to treat all people as equal individuals, although some have very different (hi)stories and are in very different circumstances – partly due to the racist hostile policies of Fortress Europe.