A large number of migrants, including children, were discovered on a road in northeastern Italy last week. Most of the migrants were Pakistani nationals who had traveled the "Balkan route."
Italian security forces found 121 migrants overnight between Friday and Saturday in the hinterland north of the city of Udine near the Slovenian border.
Around 68 people, including four women and eight children – almost all Pakistani nationals with a few Nepalese and Eritreans among them – were found over the course of a few hours by police while walking along the Osovana provincial road in Pagnacco and Tavagnacco near Udine.
The remaining 53 migrants found in the same area included a number of Bangladeshi nationals.
Investigation to find smugglers
The migrants underwent healthcare and identification procedures in line with anti-COVID regulations in force in Italy. An investigation is underway to find the smugglers who accompanied them onto Italian territory. They are believed to have been made to get out of one or more vehicles shortly before they were found.
In recent months a growing number of migrants has been arriving in Italy through the northeastern border. UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi expressed concern over the trend during his recent visit to Italy. In a press conference on Friday, Grandi said the while the numbers are still lower than those arriving in Italy by sea, they must be managed, adding that current reception of the migrants was inadequate and that better organization is required to avoid social tensions.
Reception and solidarity
To raise awareness of the issue of receiving migrants coming from the Balkan route, over 200 people from across Italy took part in a demonstration on Saturday in Trieste. The gathering was part of an initiative called 'Balkanroute Calling: Mobilitazione a Trieste e sul Confine Italo-sloveno!' ('Balkan Route Calling: Mobilization in Trieste and on the Italian-Slovenian border').
"Let's push barbarian acts, and not people, to the border" and "solidarity is not a crime" were written on banners which were held high during the demonstration. Organizers say that the aim is to "bring solidarity to those who help people in transit every day, and who for this reason are slandered and investigated," as well as to denounce the "policies of illegal push-backs and externalizing of the border by the European Union and Italy."
The 'Balkanroute' initiative stopped a few meters from the border with Slovenia, in Pesek, where the protestors wrote on the asphalt with white paint: "welcome refugees, stop push-backs."
The next aim of the initiative is the organization between May and June of a caravan towards Maljevac, a county in Croatia not far from the Bosnia border known as a site of violent migrant push-backs.