Anecdotes from the Italian-French Border

Barbed wire fence over the walls of the church area. A highly observed entrance gate of the emergency shelter “Refugio Massi”. The sun is shining, a soccer game is taking place in the garden. A 9-year-old girl plays with a small puppy in the yard. In the community room, people are sleeping on the tables, although actually every day they are awakened at 6:00 in the morning. The day before, so many people had arrived that the capacity of the shelter was exhausted. Now everyone has to get out. “Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!!!!”. A great rush breaks out, no one wants to miss the bus to Clavière. But in the last Italian village, carabinieri will already be waiting for the bus, and some of the people will be handed over to the French gendarmerie at the border. If there are people who can run up the steep ski slopes, they will be caught by the French police in the forest at the latest. Push backs are becoming more professionalized and violent every day. And still: on the picture you would still be able to see smiling faces.

A few days ago, a group of people on the move told us about a push back in the mountains as they tried to cross the border into France. They said the gendarmerie caught them in the forest, where they slammed a person’s head against a tree. Police violence on the Mongenèvre border is increasing. Temperatures are dropping and soon there will be the first snowfalls. The escape over the high mountains has many dangers and some people gratefully accept the support of activist structures.

Oulx, a community between tourism and racism. True, here we found the best pizza and the most delicious pistaccio ice cream we have ever eaten. But we don’t feel like tourists here. Quite the opposite, we assume we are being watched and monitored by Italian investigating authorities. “We know everything, you are helping the migrants,” a digo told us to intimidate us and make us feel criminal. But the absurd perspective shift hides the view on the reality. Who is it that beats people up at the border and makes the flight so dangerous that people even die here in the mountains?

Also some residents are bothered by the presence of people on the move and by our presence. Some parents of the local kindergarten have complained to the mayor, who sent a digo to us and ordered us to move our truck. On the same day, we were informed of a “novelty” in the bus schedule. The bus from Oulx to Claviére wants to take from now on only school children and no more migrantized people.