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ITALY/2017/The last frontier


In 2016, more than 180,000 people reached Italy by boat, setting a record. So far this year, 93,314 people have arrived on the country’s shores. Face to this record numbers of arrivals for several years now, the country’s reception system still works in an emergency mode, and fails to meet the needs of the most vulnerable migrants.
Among those arrived, a part of them are not intentioned to remain in Italy, because they have family or relatives in other EU countries- the only way to start a new life and to have support. Crossing illegally the border between Italy and France has remained the only alternative to reach France and then the other EU countries.

As a consequence of stricter border policies in place in Europe since the peak of the migrant crisis in 2015, the Italian town of Ventimiglia on the French border has turned into a main transit point for people trying to continue their route northwards. This part of the journey is riddled with difficulty, and many migrants are picked up by police as they attempt to cross the border. They are either sent to reception centers, or moved to police stations. Once they are released, they will often try again to cross into France, again and again until they succeed.

In order to cope with the influx of migrants, local civil society has carried out a response on volunteer basis, by setting up a temporary shelter in the local parish of Sant Antonio alle Gianchette, where families, children and women are hosted and given a meal.
Moreover, since July 2016 the Red Cross built a camp and then extended it up to 500 places, near the train station to host single men and, since last month, also unaccompanied minors. However, with the summer season arrivals have increased, and more and more people have reached Ventimiglia, not finding shelter in the existing facilities. An average of 150 people (with peaks of 300) in transit in Ventimiglia towards the border with France on a daily basis eventually end up sleeping along the river Roya (Italian side, Ventimiglia), in rough living conditions; there is no running water, no services or latrines or any electricity.
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