Ventimiglia, migrants locked up in containers
Project 20K activists publish a denunciation video showing the conditions under which people pushed back along the border are forced once intercepted by the police. The migrants are locked up in containers positioned by the French state in the area adjacent to the border offices. Through the testimony of a boy, what many suffer in an attempt to cross a border between two European countries, Italy and France, is told
The monitoring work carried out by Project 20k activists and activists is part of a broader debate, within which we try to read the devices that regulate the management of migration as part of a wider attempt to manage inequalities. The restriction of the mobility of migrant bodies, the denial of a dignified reception system, the differentiation process underway in accessing the European area which sees the first element of criminalization of migration when crossing the Mediterranean Sea. government laboratory. At the same time, attempts at political neutralization and demonization of forms of solidarity and dissent are the immediate result of the settlement of government-style, security-related agendas that see the security laws issued by the old yellow-green government as the last political manifestation.
The device in use at the Italian-French border in the Maritime Alps area, of which Ventimiglia represents the privileged observation point, responds exactly to this logic, creating a border area that extends from Cannes to Libya. Ventimiglia, in its geographical disposition, allows to decipher the mechanisms inherent in the agreements entered into by Italy with other countries, such as France, Austria or Libya, in order to show how the borders are outsourced. Through a complex legal mechanism, the French police are allowed to push back in a territory characterized by a "state of exception". France has in fact reintroduced border controls which define a temporary and extraordinary condition, permitted by the Schengen code only & nbsp; in the case of serious threats to internal security. To this decision, with a complicated legal transaction, the French government has joined an expansion of the border space for several kilometers within French territory. This double mechanism implies, on the one hand, that there are extraordinary checks by the border police at the various points of access to French territory, on trains, buses and on the road network. On the other hand, the migrants arrested in this "space of exception" are considered de facto still on the border, with the consequence that the decision on the treatment of the individual case is entrusted to the police authority without going through the legal apparatus, thus increasing the possibility of abuse and violations.
The boy in the video was attempting to reach France aboard a train when he was stopped by the French Gendarmerie and, after hours of detention in a container, he was rejected in Ventimiglia. The stay inside these containers lasts up to 12 hours, without the possibility of accessing primary goods such as food. Illegal detention of these people is shown in all its harshness. It is not only the freedom of movement of individual people that is trampled on, as they will sooner or later be brought back to Italy, but also their personal freedom, because they are forced into these narrow spaces without the intervention of any judicial authority.
The violence and psychological pressures perpetrated by the French police are on the agenda. Ventimiglia is populated by groups of migrants returning from various attempts to cross the border, often also victims of expulsion decrees, who wish to cross that barrier towards better living conditions, encountering further obstacles. The largest is precisely on trains from Italy to the first French station of Menton-Garavan. Raked people are identified and subjected to searches, all under the eyes of those waiting on the tracks for the arrival of the next train. They are then escorted to a room located inside the station. The wait can last for hours, until officials of the Gendarmerie decide that the number of those arrested is sufficient for the transfer to the border barracks between Menton and Ventimiglia. Once inside the barracks, the wait continues until the rejection to Italy or forced transfers to the hotspots of southern Italy.
In the carriages of the regional train that leads to Cannes, at various times of the day, migrants try to cross the border, but their journey is immediately interrupted. The operations of the French police are rapid and tested, in a few minutes the migrants are surrounded by the police and brought to the waiting rooms of the station. In the subsequent stages of Montecarlo, Nice, Antibes and finally Cannes the Gendarmerie ceases to be a constant and threatening presence. Most of the tourists and traveling workers remain on the train seats. Sometimes migrants are traced back on trains going in the opposite direction, while on other occasions they are detained and then handed over to the Italian authorities. They are then taken over by the police in the Ponte San Luigi police station, which is located exactly on the high border and is 9 kilometers from the center of Ventimiglia. From this structure, some are released and forced to walk back to the Ligurian town, while others are detained and loaded onto buses leaving for Taranto, as envisaged by the operation which is part of the border relief plan designed by the chief of police Gabrielli in 2016.
This mechanism does not represent an isolated case, but it is a paradigm of European logic and its individual states aimed at regulating the migratory phenomenon in a repressive and discriminatory way. It is a structural attitude in European border protection policies, whether internal or external. Monitoring and reporting these brutal practices of the border device confirms a necessary action. The importance of showing the abuses of the present is not only for the purpose of witnessing the consequences of the new migration policies, but aims to undermine the narrative that wants migrants as docile victims to be determined from above.
In the face of coercive and violent management of migration, in the face of soothing practices of human rights and dignity, there can be no strong response that instead reaffirms the space of self-determination for everyone. Where the European border regime deploys all its power to select those admitted to transit, increasingly on discriminatory and discretionary criteria, those who rebel claim, through radical and conflicting acts, the need, the will and the right of everyone to go beyond boundaries that others have established through historical and political processes.
Ventimiglia is confirmed as an integral part of that "human war" that we see along all borders. This expression is not limited to the ideological or declaratory plane only. What happens on the French border is only part of an obstacle course that starts from the external borders of the Mediterranean Sea, where the myth of Europe as a "land of rights" immediately reveals its hypocritical and repressive face.
Also for these reasons, in planning and implementing a political intervention along the border areas, one constantly questions the trajectories to be followed, bearing in mind that solidarity and political intervention must travel together. "Political" and "humanitarian" are in this phase inseparable. An activism style transversal to the legal status of migrants and citizens (asylum seekers, "irregular" workers, activists, precarious workers and students) and to the categories (vulnerable, minors, women) is necessary and possible. Solidarity interventions offer the possibility of access to rights as a collective phenomenon and not as an individual claim, reaffirming the need and desire to migrate, travel, express dissent in the face of unjust laws and violate their geographical and political boundaries.
DINAMOPRESS is an independent information project born on 11 November 2012 from the cooperation between different social spaces in Rome, professional journalists, university researchers, video makers and activists