THE FRENCH-ITALIAN BORDER
In 2015,the french state suspended the european mandate of free movement within the schengen zone and put in place permanent militarised controls at and around their borders. Since then, anyone without the alleged ‘correct’ documents wanting to cross the border into France is refused entry and physically pushed back. These illegal pushbacks have been happening daily since then at the French-Italian border on a huge scale and 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, as well as other specific border areas become a hotspot of people on the move as they are blocked from continuing their journeys.
THE SITUATION IN VENTIMIGLIA
As people without the so-called “right” papers get pushbacked at the border of France, they often have to go back to Ventimiglia, which is the last city before the border. The former mayor of Ventimiglia, Enrico Ioculano did not recognise this as a existing problem and denied the need for basic housing and facilities for people still on the move in Ventimiglia, pushing away the construction of a refugee camp further from Ventimiglia for the whole duration of his time as a mayor and enforcing policies to criminalize homelessness. This resulting into the area lacking any safe sleeping spaces or access to basic needs like, toilets, water or eletricity… In addition to the political denial and lack of adequate structures, most of the cafés and shops in the city often show hostile behaviors towards people on the move and displaced people. Gaetano Scullino, who was the mayor of the city before that and who came back to power in 2019, despite being accused of corruption and having links with mafias, has started addressing the situation in May 2022 only pushing for the creation of an identification camp to “reduce criminality”. In November, Enrico Ioculano has started as well a racist campaign for the construction of a camp to “keep the streets of Ventimiglia clean”.
HISTORY OF THE COLLECTIVE
Kesha Niya is Kurdish Sorani for ‘No Problem’ and is connected to the origin of the collective. The project originally began in 2016 as a loose group of friends who wanted to support people on the move. They were orignally based and active within a state-sponsored camp in Grande-Synthe (close to Dunkirk) carrying out some daily tasks typically consisting of cooking, distributing food, preparing firewood amongst other work. People living at the camp -the large majority Kurdish- would regularly attempt to cross the british channel to the UK and would return if they did not succeed. Confronted with various hurdles and difficulties to overcome, ‘no problem’ or ‘kesha niya’ was a frequently used expression that gave name to the forming group.
In the end of March 2017, the collective decided to close the kitchen in Grande-Synthe and to move to the southern French-Italian border, close to the town of Ventimiglia. After the move, we mostly focused on preparing and distributing hot food in Ventimiglia. We began our “border cooking” project as well, where we cooked hot meals directly on the route from the French border police station to Ventimiglia, on this road people who have been pushbacked to Italy are walking back to Ventimiglia. In addition to cooking we would monitor the amount of pushbacks and people’s treatment by the police. This took up the majority of our focus from then on. Slowly others associations took over most of the nightly hot food distributions in Ventimiglia. The border spot started gaining a lot of people’s attention resulting in unwanted people coming all the way from Ventimiglia to there. Because of this we decided to stop cooking at the border spot and rather focus more on monitoring and interacting with people there.
We are now still present at the border, however less systematically and on top of this we are constantly looking for new and diverse ways to support people on the move and dismantle the border. Our actions vary on what people want to focus on, some examples could be doing: food distrubtion, food-n-tea truck, border monitoring, hosting, organizing demonstrations and events to keep this border struggle visible… etc. The work has been and still is, fluid and varied. There for we invite people to come and also start new projects while here