In the last year, the typical Alpine landscape in the touristic area between Bardonecchia, Claviere and Briançon has slightly changed. Alpine villages started to experience the consequences of the closure of the French-Italian border, in a context of increasing mobility of asylum seekers looking for better opportunities in France and other EU-countries.
As mobility through the French borders is interpreted, by the French government, as a matter of public security (border controls were reintroduced in the aftermath of terroristic attacks), controls based on racial profiling and consequential rejections of undocumented foreigners by French Border Police increased.
There are many reasons why asylum seekers want to cross this border: some of them want to reach family or friends living in other EU-countries, others just want to live in France because they have born in French-speaking African countries. A part of them is escaping from bad experiences in the Italian reception system (i.e., hotspots in the South of Italy). However, according to the Dublin Agreement (which regulates the asylum procedure in the EU), they can only present their asylum demand in the country where they landed – in this case, they landed on Italian shores after crossing the Mediterranean Sea.
As a consequence of the increasing rejections, many migrants opt for crossing the border in dangerous conditions. Three of them died in their attempt during the last snowy winter. At the same time, new forms of solidarity by a part of the local population are emerging.
Police and judicial activities are focused not only on rejections at the border but also in putting pressure on the activity of solidaries, in some cases prosecuted as criminal smugglers.
This situation is a producing human suffering and the mobilization of a part of civil society on both sides of the borders.
(Photos by Guillaume Darribau)
REJREG (“Rejection regimes: an ethnographic study of the social life of intra-EU borders”) is a research project funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the grant agreement n. 792793.