In recent months, the number of migrants and refugees at Italy's northern borders has sharply increased. Even through the winter, people head west across the snow-capped mountains towards France; many tell stories of how they were repeatedly turned back by the French police. On Italy’s eastern border, people arrive on foot through the woods and along trails after traveling the Balkan route, where some report being beaten by Bosnian or Croatian police.
While the overall number of migrants and refugees is lower than it was a few years ago, the humiliation, violence, and harassment continues to take place. The only thing that keeps them going, despite all they have suffered, is hope for what lies ahead.
Assistance from authorities is completely absent in the border cities; it is left to activists and volunteers to receive people in transit and provide them with humanitarian assistance and medical care, with the support of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). In mid-December, two MSF teams traveled to the main transit points in Ventimiglia, Oulx, Bolzano, and Trieste to speak with migrants and refugees on the move, along with the people trying to help them.
Here are some of their words, followed by MSF’s call to the Italian authorities to provide people with shelter, humanitarian aid, and access to medical care in all border areas.