During the summer of 2015, in the context of the largest refugee crisis since World War II, the flow of migrants reaching Italy by boat and headed overland for northern Europe is abruptly interrupted by the closure of the French border on June the 8th 2015. Within a few days, near the Italian border town of Ventimiglia, a crowd of 200-300 migrants is formed. On June the 11th, the Italian police attempts to forcibly deport them. Many resist and take shelter on the rocks, creating a first makeshift camp a few metres from the posh French Riviera town of Menton.
Two months later, the makeshift camp has been moved in a shady parking lot a few hundreds metres away from the rocks. A group of activists from Italy and France joined forces with the migrants stranded at the border, and together they built a sort of atypical refugee camp, a self-managed community providing hospitality, relief and advice to migrants in a solidary environment. In this space, delimited by the sea, the border and the railway to France, migrants have the opportunity to regain strength and to be treated again with respect and love after days, weeks or even months of travel, often under inhumane conditions.
Among infinite dreams, stories, hopes and uncertainties, one thing is clear to all: nobody is going back.
PHOTO ESSAY (Jul – Aug 2015)
TAHER (21), FROM SUDAN
My family lives in the eastern area of Sudan, where there is war against the government.
From Sudan I borrowed $500 to reach Libya by car. The situation there was too dangerous, a war between different groups was ongoing. So I worked to repay my debts and I borrowed $600 more to pay for the boat to reach Italy. After 10 hours at sea we where rescued by a boat that took us to Sardinia. And from there we where transferred to Rome. To finally get to Ventimiglia I took the train. In total it took me almost one year to get here.
I tried several times to cross the border, but I was caught by the police and brought back. I will try again because I want to go to England or Sweden and ask for asylum.
IDRIS (20) , FROM ETHIOPIA
In Libya I gave money to a man to pay for the boat ride ($870) and he took me and other people to a farm where he told us to wait, but it was a scam. After 21 days the man said that who had the money can go but who doesn’t must stay in the farm in Libya and work to raise the money. So I was forced to stay 4 more months to pay again for the trip. I ended up paying an extra $1.200.
After the boat arrived to Sicily I reached Ventimiglia on a bus and, after crossing the border, I was arrested in Menton by the police and brought back to Ventimiglia. Of course I will try to cross again. I want to go to England via Paris, but if I don’t succeed I could also go to the Netherlands.
BEFORE/AFTER SERIES (Jul – Nov 2015)
The camp is evicted by the Italian police on September the 30th 2015. On the morning of the eviction, in a last symbolic act of resistance migrants and activists took shelter again on the rocks, as the day when the camp was born. Only after an entire day of negotiations they agreed to leave the border area. The migrants were transferred to the Red Cross shelter at Ventimiglia train station. The activists returned to their daily lives, some of them with charges for illegal occupation of public land.
In early November 2015, the police seals surrounding the seized area are among the few remaining traces of the camp. The following before/after series, witnessing an absence, focuses on the dramatic landscape mutation of the border area after the camp eviction.
The history of the camp narrated by its own protagonists in a multimedia piece integrating still photography, video footage and audio interviews.
We are not going back (2015) 6:29 min multimedia documentary piece Photography, Video and Editing: Marco Panzetti Interviews recording: Andrei Rodriguez Hernandez