Migrants at the border between Italy and France. Credit: Luca Zennaro/ANSA
Migrants at the border between Italy and France. Credit: Luca Zennaro/ANSA

An activist movement in favor of welcoming migrants has caused a stir in Italy. Supporters of Briser Les Frontieres have occupied a mountain church at the border area with France to provide hospitality to transiting migrants.

Many migrants on their way to France pass through the Susa Valley in Turin in Italy. Activists of the movement Briser Les Frontieres are now occupying a church in Claviere, the last Italian town before the French border with Montgenevre, to offer hospitality there to migrants. 

The activists said that self-management is the only solution to freedom of movement for migrants when faced with institutional reception. However, the Italian right-wing party Brothers of Italy (FdI) is asking that the Alps not become a "refugee camp". 

Activists say situation at border is "complicated" 

At the doorway of the church, the activists hung signs with slogans such as "Chez Jesus" and "Occupied Church" as well as "Freedom of movement for all, against every border". 

Since Thursday last week, more than 100 migrants have made the church one of their stops. The occupation is taking place only in certain areas of the structure and doesn't hinder religious activities there. The activist group said the situation at the border in recent weeks has become "complicated". 

"The influx of people is increasingly heavy, and the solidarity practices put into place in recent months aren't enough. This occupation isn't aimed at getting action on the part of institutions, that could answer us with the usual reception scaffolding from which most of the people we're talking to are trying to escape. We prefer to organize ourselves in a way that's self-managed," the Briser organization said. 

Claviere Mayor Franco Capra didn't hide his disappointment. "This isn't the way to raise awareness among the French authorities," Capra said. "The right way is shown in the Turin Prefecture's plan, which we're a part of," he said. 

Right-wing criticism 

Brothers of Italy MP Augusta Montaruli recently visited the site along with others from the party. "By being here, we want to make ourselves available to the parish priest of this border church, who has been left to face the emergency alone," Montaruli said. 

"Italy and these places can't be called to take on the burden of everyone who comes to our country requesting asylum. The Alps cannot become a refugee camp with the approval and complicity of a Europe that says it is united but discharges onto our shoulders the weight of this now unacceptable situation. Identify the occupants and verify holders of protection requests," she said. 

FdI national manager Maurizio Marrone said, "Out-of-control situations like Calais start like this. If steps aren't taken to evict those who are illegally occupying the space - rightfully only protecting those who truly have refugee status - the consequences for our mountain villages are unpredictable".

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