'Chez Jesoulx', the roadhouse near Oulx turned into a shelter from which migrants were evicted by Italian security forces | Photo: ARCHIVE/ANSA/US/CARABINIERI
'Chez Jesoulx', the roadhouse near Oulx turned into a shelter from which migrants were evicted by Italian security forces | Photo: ARCHIVE/ANSA/US/CARABINIERI

The town of Oulx, situated near the Italian-French border in Italy's Alta Valle di Susa, has continued to represent an "important crossroads of two migration flows directed to France," the organization Doctors for Human Rights (MEDU) said in a report on the situation at the northwestern border of the Alps released on July 9.

In the first five months of 2021 (January-May), the Italian town of Oulx near the Italian-French border in Alta Valle di Susa has continued to represent "an important crossroads of two migration flows directed to France," according to Doctors for Human Rights (MEDU).

The organization on July 9 released a new report on the humanitarian situation of migrants in transit along the northwestern border of the Alps.

In the report MEDU found that part of the migrants reaching the border town come "from the Balkan route with the plan to cross on foot the Colle del Monginevro," an Alpine crossing between Italy and France. The other flow concerns migrants "of more variegated provenance" who often spend "longer periods of time in Italy and who try to cross the Frejus."

The report went on to say that, as in 2020, also in 2021 the main countries of origin of those reaching Oulx were Afghanistan and Iran, followed by Algeria and, in a very small percentage, sub-Saharan western African countries. The latter group of migrants reached Italy through the central Mediterranean route.

MEDU explained that a large number of families, pregnant women, unaccompanied migrants and elderly people reach the town from the Balkan route.

The organization said these migrants often arrive after a trip full of "difficulties and violence" which can last "from two to six years and sometimes for a decade."

"Crossing the mountains separating Italy from France is a risk for people, often with evident vulnerabilities, in particular during the winter months due to the snow and freezing temperatures and the inexperience of migrants."

'People left without shelter after facility shut down'

Over the last few months of last year "over 4,700 people passed through Oulx and in the first months of 2021 some 1,000" people were recorded every month in the border town, "divided into two shelters: Chez JesOulx, an old roadhouse occupied by anarchists to provide shelter to people in transit, and the Rifugio Fraternità Massi, managed by the Foundation Talità Kum Budrola Onlus, with the support of many volunteers," the NGO explained.

MEDU stressed that the "eviction of the roadhouse operated by security officers on March 23, 2021 without alternative solutions to host people in transit, produced the inevitable situation of serious overcrowding at the only shelter left, forcing many people to remain on the street."

"Given the silence of institutions and the growing militarization of the border, only the transnational work of solidarity has prevented more deaths at the border," the organization noted in the report.

MEDU's requests

Given the situation described in the report, MEDU asked institutions to take responsibility and respond to the ongoing humanitarian crisis the needs of people in transit.

It asked authorities to

  • expand hosting facilities
  • to open the shelter Fraternità Massi-Talità Kum in Oulx for 24 hours a day
  • to open a medical facility that is accessible to all migrants, regardless of their juridical status
  • to provide basic assistance and, in particular, gynecological and pediatric checkups
  • to search for humanitarian solutions for the most vulnerable migrants who attempt to cross the border in a situation of elevated risk.

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