« On parle beaucoup de la Méditerranée, parce qu’il y a beaucoup de morts, ici il n’y en a pas assez de morts, mais un est trop (They talk a lot about the Mediterranean, because many die there. Here, there aren’t so many deaths, but just one is enough) », said Pierre-Yves Doré, an activist in Briançon, frontier commune in southeastern France.
A new event of “Expressions of Humanity – “No one can survive alone” throws light on the journey of African migrants crossing border through the western Alps from Italy to France. On March 23rd, 2021, Time For Equality, in collaboration with Rotondes invited the participants to discover it through a film screening and a live talk with the film director and humanitarian organizations.
The Milky Way
The Milky Way is a famous ski area situated in the western Alps shared by two countries: Italy and France. The mountains have historically been a natural frontier between the two countries over the centuries. On the other hand, it has also been a route used by migrants of African origin to cross the border from Claviere in Italy to Montgenèvre in France. The recent policies of closing the internal European borders as well as the intensified control in the frontier zones pushed further migrant people to take a less traveled route to continue their journey, including high mountain paths of the Milky Way.
The documentary film “The Milky Way” directed by Luigi D’Alife and produced by SMK Videofactory takes the audience to the cruel world of such migration, through the story of migrants, activists and inhabitants of the mountains as well as through the animated graphic novels describing the historical reconstruction of Italian emigration during the 1950s.
The film ironically describes the contrast between two sides of Milky Way: one as a ski resort area or a place with full of joy; another as a route of refugees or a place of fear, danger and inhumanity. On the one hand, during the day, the mountains host ski visitors. In the film, a visitor tells that “we choose this place, because we believe that we can find here anything we want. It is a great advantage. You can have your experience in French side and Italian side.” On the other hand, at night, the mountains turn into a theater of fear where dozens of poorly prepared and equipped migrants try to cross an imaginary line called the border, covered by snow, in the darkness, being fear of the controls of French authorities and without any clear direction. Some lose their family in the middle of their journey; some die just after the border, in Montgenèvre; even though they finally arrive in Montgenèvre, most suffer from frostbite and cannot escape from the fear of being deported.
Some inhabitants of the mountains tell that the mountains have historically been a place of connection between different people and cultures. The mountains do not split people in respect of ‘artificial border’, rather the mountains being a difficult place to live, push people to help each other, thus unit the people in the area regardless of different languages, cultures and lifestyle, reminding us of the notion – solidarity.
Luigi D’Alife – Director
The event continues with the Q & A session with the director of the film, Luigi D’Alife. He describes his passion about border issues that drove him to focus on the Italy-France border issue. He also illustrates the difficulties that he faced while filming particularly vis-à-vis migrants as well as his effort not to see migrants as ‘objects’ to film, but ‘subjects’. Moreover, he also tells a story of a shelter whose activities was just evicted by the police on the day of the even and argue that “solidarity is not a crime. There is no border that can stop it.”
Walking in the Streets’ Essence (WISE)
The event moves on to the discussion by three humanitarian organizations active in migrants and refugee protection issues. The discussion opens with a presentation by WISE, an organization providing humanitarian assistance to the Jungle, refugee and migrant encampment in Calais and Dunkirk, in northern France. Clément Franzoso of WISE describes its activities with some thought-provoking videos and pictures, allowing the audience to feel closer as much as possible to the situation of Jungle.
Subsequently, Ambre Schultz of Passerell, an association active in the monitoring of legal action in asylum matters in Luxembourg. She describes various legal barriers which migrants often face during their journey, varying from a case of asylum applicants being systematically pushed back by the Luxembourg authority due to a regulation to the country in which they were victims of violence, to a case of another being not able to obtain a recognition as father of a new-born baby for lack of document.
Europe Must Act
The event closes with a presentation of Europe Must Act. It is an association composed of various NGOs and volunteers leading campaigns for more human European migration policies. Europe Must Act has several chapters (branches) in different cities. Representatives of the Belgium and Luxembourg chapters introduced their activities and called for solidarity.
(text by Yuki Fujita)