They come from Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia.
They are young adults and unaccompanied minors, pregnant women and entire
families. They gather here in Ventimiglia, Italy, a small town on the
Mediterranean coast, major transit point for refugees, and final frontier of
the dangerous journey to Europe.
As many migrate north to nations like France
and Germany, they pass through Ventimiglia, but recent increased policing along
the borders here has prevented people from crossing successfully. As a result,
the population of refugees and migrants is growing. With camps full, people
look to the urban landscape for shelter, sleeping under bridges and overpasses.
Some even sleep along the banks of the Roia river.
Citizens engaged: citizens on both sides of the
border have stepped up to help the growing population. In Ventimiglia, Sant
Antonio church has transformed into a temporary shelter and food kitchen; local
bars offer refugees meal discounts and free electricity to charge their phones,
since makeshift shelters lack power. MSF began collaborating with these local
efforts in fall of last year to provide care for migrants in transit,
especially for expectant mothers and to address the effects of mental trauma.
Often, the trauma from the migration route leaves individuals with feelings of
depression, abandonment and anxiety.
While people wait for the next step in
Ventimiglia, not every asylum claim is approved by the government. When these
applications are denied, the options are limited, though a last effort remains:
to walk the five miles from Ventimiglia into France, a journey along the
highway known as the “Pass of Death.” Since September, 10 have died on this
route attempting to cross the border, and some, avoiding the highway
altogether, travel along the equally dangerous railroad or mountain path
instead. It is along this route that Roya Citoyenne, a local community group
across the French border, has created a temporary shelter where, if only for a
moment, refugees can safely rest as they seek their final destination.