A group of migrants in the town of Briancon, southeastern France | Photo: ARCHIVE/EPA/GUILLAUME HORCAJUELO
A group of migrants in the town of Briancon, southeastern France | Photo: ARCHIVE/EPA/GUILLAUME HORCAJUELO

Doctors for Human Rights (MEDU) denounced a worrisome situation northwest of Val di Susa, on the border between Italy and France, where winter is approaching and transiting migrants have no place to stay.

The situation northwest of Val di Susa, on both the French side in Briançon and the Italian side in Oulx, is complex and serious, said Doctors for Human Rights (MEDU) in a statement released Sunday, October 31.

"Entire families arriving from the Balkan route and some migrants coming from the central Mediterranean route continue trying to cross the border at the Montgenevre and Frejus crossings to get to France, but the two reception centers at the borders do not have enough places."

The situation at the border

On the French side, in the city of Briançon, a new shelter called "Les Terrasses Solidaires" has been open for 15 days and has only 80 places, MEDU said. On Sunday evening, due to overcrowding, the shelter was closed and the more than 200 transiting migrants who were looking for accommodation took shelter at the station.

Since last Wednesday, in order to avoid eviction, the town's parish priest has welcomed migrants. After an intervention by the bishop and a long negotiation, the prefecture provided Covid tests and buses to Lyon.

In recent days, talks also began for the opening of a new center that could be financed by the prefecture itself and managed independently by the associations, in a place they indicate.

The other side of the border in Italy is dealing with the same issues. On 24 October more than 150 people sought shelter at the Fraternita Massi shelter, which has only 40 places. The shelter is the only one accessible after the evictions of the ChezJesOulx roadman's house, the old customs house, and the roadman's house in Claviere.

'Transiting migrants are mostly families'

Piero Gorza, anthropologist and MEDU contact for Piedmont, said the issue is one of both size and type. "The complexity is not only in the numbers -- more than 1,550 people in Oulx -- but also in the composition of the people who arrive," Gorza said.

"Nowadays the migrants who pass through the valley are mainly families. There are children, babies and pregnant women," he said.

"The risk is that the journey for these people becomes even more dangerous when temperatures drop. Furthermore, the number of buses and trains to other regions of France have been reduced, and a negative Covid test is required for travel."

MEDU continues to monitor the situation at the Italy-France border and is calling on various leaders in the area to take responsibility and respond to the worrisome humanitarian crisis still underway.


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