Inside Solidarity Terraces, a shelter whichs welcomes exiled people, Briançon, January 25, 2023
Inside Solidarity Terraces, a shelter whichs welcomes exiled people, Briançon, January 25, 2023

A migrant center near the Franco-Italian border is saturated with sub-Saharan migrants fleeing Tunisia's xenophobic policy and other exiles who stay because of the excessively high-priced train tickets to Paris.

The migrant center Terrasses solidaires (Solidarity Terraces) of Briançon in Southeastern France is once again saturated with migrants seeking shelter within its walls.

In a press release published on Facebook on May 22, the association in charge of the refuge explained that it reached a peak of 136 exiles last weekend, despite a maximum capacity of 64 places, after several weeks of successive arrivals of mostly unaccompanied minors and families.

According to Jean Gaboriau, a member of the board of directors of Solidarity Terraces, the influx is due to the lack of transport out of Briançon. Migrants usually stop to rest at the shelter for 24 or 48 hours before resuming their journey to Paris.

But now, they are stranded due to the rising prices of train ticket prices. "We are currently housing one hundred migrants; some have to sleep in the canteen. Usually, train tickets cost about 20 euros, but now it's more like 100 euros," said Gaboriau.

Also read: 'Do something!': Protests in the Alps, as volunteers urge authorities to ease migrant reception situation

As noted by InfoMigrants, it is almost impossible to find tickets to Paris on France's national railway website for less than 100 euros until the end of June. The company at the end of 2022 explained it was going to increase its prices by 5% to compensate for rising energy prices. According to spokesmen, the company's costs have increased by 13% in recent months.

The impact of migratory pressure on the Italian coasts

For Gaboriau, the anti-migrant discourse in Tunisia led to an influx of sub-Saharan exiles trying to reach Italy -- and therefore Briançon, one of the first French cities after the Italian border in the Hautes-Alpes (a department located in the heart of the French Alps), by association.

"We know that there is a considerable influx of migrants in Lampedusa, and it inevitably has repercussions here," he said.

Also read: Italy asks for EU funds to clear Lampedusa after migrant influx

Italy is currently facing a sharp increase in the number of migrants arriving from Tunisia and Libya. More than 31,000 exiles have landed in Lampedusa since the beginning of 2023, four times the nuber who arrived during the same period in the previous two years. Rome declared a state of emergency on April 11 to manage the increase.

The saturated emergency accommodation system

In the press release, Solidarity Terraces called on the Hautes-Alpes préfecture (department) to open additional emergency accommodation. According to the collective, the two letters sent on May 10 and 19 remained unanswered. "The town hall also has not offered a solution," said Gaboriau.

Contacted by InfoMigrants, the department claimed to have read the letters but explained, "it is currently impossible to open new places for emergency accommodation" and "the plan [to provide 135 permanent places] has reached full capacity".

Also read: In Briançon, migrants and volunteers face immense pressure

The shelter fears being forced to close once again, as was the case in October 2021 after an unprecedented influx of migrants. Nearly 300 people had to sleep in the Briançon train station, angering the right-wing mayor, Arnaud Murgia, who accused the association of political blackmail.

"Being forced to close down is always on our minds. We will not be able to accommodate more than 120-130 people; we don't know what this constant tension will lead to," said Gaboriau.

For several years, Solidarity Terraces has been asking the state to finance its action in the absence of opening new emergency accommodation in the department. Faced with the refusal of the authorities, the association survives through donations from individuals and sponsors.

"Obviously, goodwill alone is not enough," it wrote in the press release. “We are sounding the alarm, so the State implements a policy that is dignified and respectful of the rights of exiled people."


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