The total drop in arrivals has impacted the situation at the border in that critical incidents have decreased noticeably, Gabriella Salvioni, coordinator of the Red Cross Roja camp for migrants transiting through the Italian border town of Ventimiglia explained.
"Should the arrivals start up again, the numbers would certainly increase," she added. "Before Christmas, there were 380-400 people in the camp, now there are less than 200," Salvioni continued. This number is very low, she said, with respect to the past, when the camp hosted up to 1,000 people against a capacity of 500.
The number of migrants camped along the Roja River has also dropped, Salvioni cited volunteers from other associations as saying.
Refuge for migrants in transit
The Roja camp opened at the height of the migrant crisis two years ago. On arrival, the migrants are welcomed by the Red Cross and given an entrance kit. They sleep in containers or in tents when numbers are high. They include whole families, unaccompanied migrants who have fled from centres and people who have already entered the migrant reception system but then abandoned it.
The camp includes a canteen, a meeting point for mothers and children and a play area. "We have tried to make the camp more attractive for the migrants during their stay", which on average lasts 7-10 days, Salvioni explained. "Those who show a desire to ask for asylum are given legal information by the volunteers."
Information on the dangers at the border
The Red Cross is not primarily involved in assisting the migrants along the Roja river, who are looked after by many associations including Oxfam, Caritas and the Waldensian church. Instead, it tries to persuade these migrants to come to the camp, often without success. "This may be because they probably think they have a greater chance of crossing the border if they are in that area" of the river, Salvioni suggested.
The migrants in the camp are free to go when they want, but the volunteers explain the difficulties of crossing the border and tell them to be careful, also of 'passeur' who demand money and take them for a ride instead of helping them, Salvioni explained.
The number of migrants has fallen but their situation remains difficult. "We provide assistance, information and care, and we try to do all we can in our own small way," Salvioni said.