Migrant charities, rights advocates and concerned citizens marched along the French Riviera on Saturday December 16, calling on authorities to allow migrants to enter France from Italy.
Around 500 people from the Roya Valley and cities including Paris expressed their solidarity with migrants, who charities say risk their lives to cross the border by sea or on dangerous highways.
“We know the human impact, throughout their (the migrants’) route. But the impact near the borders, we estimate around 20 people have perished, either by drowning near Ventimiglia, or by getting hit by a truck on the highway or by a train in a tunnel, or by climbing over trains and in finding a hiding place near the electric system, they died from burning. So this is why we are here today”,said Rene Dahon,a member of Roya citizens association and co-organizer of protest.
The protesters were demonstrating ahead of International Migrants Day on Dec. 18 and called for more facilities to accommodate asylum seekers.
Migrants who successfully cross the Mediterranean sea from places such as Libya to the southern tip of Italy — thousands have died trying to do so this year — often go north to a place called Ventimiglia, from where they try to slip across the border into France. In France, many end up in the Roya Valley, despite strict controls on some land borders.
‘‘The route is long and tiresome. So we leave Guinea, we come to Mali, and from Mali, we move to Algeria. And after Algeria, we go to Libya to board a boat. And in Libya, we find ourselves in the most difficult situation because in the middle of the journey, we are subjected to torture, we are imprisoned. I was in prison for two months”,said a migrant from Conakry now living in Montpellier in the South of France and whose name was not given.
Arrivals of migrants from the Middle East and Africa remain a major concern across Europe, where political leaders are under pressure to reconcile humanitarian imperatives with voter worries about jobs and security.