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The situation on the french-italian border after the eviction of the Casa Cantoniera in Oulx – Post Eviction Update, April 2021

Since the eviction of the Casa Cantoniera on the 23rd of March, the situation has worsened on the border for people attempting to cross it. There is no longer an option of resting or reflecting free of police controls or the prying regulations of associations and NGOs in the upper Susa Valley; without the availability of a place to meet, rest, fuel up, or have a minimum of access to material things, the possibility of organizing has become much more scattered to say the least.

Submitted to Enough 14. Image above Archive image by Chez Jesoulx- Rifugio Autogestito Facebook page.

Rainbow4Africa has taken up the initiative of demanding demographic details such as first and last name, date of birth, and nationality in order to enter the only dormitory in Oulx, run by the Salesiani; refusal to give this information will deny you access. It was also reported that people had been identified with fingerprints in front of the Salesiani the day after the eviction, giving way to a dangerous corridor of being Dublined or put in a CPR.

As people have accumulated in the streets of Oulx and Bardonecchia (given that the dormitories are only open at night and close in the morning) the police have begun identifying people, saying to some that if they stay in the border area for more than 2 days they must register with the police. Other people on the move were prevented from taking the bus to Claviere being told that in case they are pushed back they would receive a paper that forbids them from all of Europe. It seems that with the eviction of the Casa Cantoniera, the Authorities of Disorder feel more comfortable to spread this sort of misinformation and fear mongering without the risk of being contradicted, given that there is no one physically present to clarify.

There has been a sweeping effort on the part of the cops to displace people dozens of kilometers away from the border without their consent, placing families and single persons in structures in the middle of nowhere with little availability of public transport.

The people who have managed to arrive in the border area were also seen to be refused by police to get aboard a bus from Oulx direction Clavier, making the journey twice as long and more dangerous as they are obligated to walk along the national road serpenting up and down the mountains, which is exacerbated by the fact that people arrive sometimes without information about the territory, in inadequate clothing or lacking adept footwear. The associations present in the area are of little help, lamely encouraging people not to cross the border.

The general response to forcing the closure of the Casa Cantoniera has been frankly disgusting. A person was quoted during the eviction, urging people to avoid checking out the area so that the police could “better carry out their work” and, given all of the people “around” to “report any anomaly or strange behavior”. The company ANAS announced four days before the eviction that they would be selling 100 abandoned Case Canoniere in all of Italy -3 of which are in Valsusa- to be
converted into bars and recharging stations for electric cars.

Though media outlets have ridiculously claimed that “all the migrants are fine”, in reality the treatment of those evicted without documents has been increasingly barbaric since the closure of the Casa Cantoniera. The number of pushbacks has augmented, as well as the militarization of the border area, reportedly drones have been seen surveiying movements in the mountains. A 12 year old girl, having had been taken from a crossing attempt by the gendarmes at gun point two days after being forced out of the Casa Cantoniera along with dozens of other people, had a turbulent night at the border locked inside of a container in which she suffered panic attacks and post traumatic episodes, screaming and smashing her head on a wall. Calls for help by the family (and some of the 49 other people in the container that night) were ignored, the girl was pushed back to Italy the next day, and only then was she admitted to a hospital in Turin.

Once again we witness these tumors against solidarity structures leading to critical conditions for people in passage while associations and NGOs remain complacent and complicit in the face of state repression and police violence, providing no alternative to ever more controls and institutionalization. However, the demand for freedom of movement and choice to determine one’s own life still stands and will continue to seek fulfillment.

Chez Jesoulx- Rifugio Autogestito, April 7, 2021

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