Fadda is 19 years old. He is originally from Sierra Leone. This September 21, in Menton (Alpes-Maritimes), he has just been turned back to the Franco-Italian border by the French authorities. The young man set foot in Lampedusa (Italy) a few days before the publicized arrival on the island of nearly 8,500 migrants, between September 10 and 13. He got back on track in two weeks to reach France on September 2. Sitting on a low wall, like a dozen others beside him, Fadda waits for the bus heading to Ventimiglia, the nearest Italian city. Without money or food, he hopes to join a marauding organized by a humanitarian association there.
That evening, in Menton, more than 200 people waited patiently in line to receive their dish. The pouring rain forced them to seek refuge under the national road bridge, a dusty area with abandoned vegetation and littered with hundreds of plastic waste. This Thursday, the Scuola di Pace (School of Peace) association is taking care of the tour. Sometimes French or Italian, the collectives take turns every day to ensure the service. About 250 meals, according to Filippo Lombardo, a volunteer. “We are talking about a particular influx after Lampedusa, but in reality the phenomenon has been operating in waves for years. Sometimes there are a lot of them at once, other times the arrivals are more diffuse,” explains this 69-year-old retiree. years old who never ceases to warn migrants: “Reaching France via Menton is impossible.”
The only watchword: firmness
On the other side of the border, between 200 and 300 migrant arrests are made every day. Monday September 18, after the images from Lampedusa, the border police (PAF) obtained an additional staff of 200 people in order to increase controls, even though the long-awaited influx is still not visible. At the PAF in Menton, moreover, we say we are rather perplexed by this possibility. “We only arrested two migrants from this large wave,” explains Emmanuelle Joubert, departmental director of the PAF. “Those arrested this week only landed on the island of Lampedusa between the end of August and the beginning of September.”
No matter, state services anticipate and display their firmness. The construction of Algeco on the PAF parking lot is planned; an installation which should be operational within two weeks. The town hall and the prefecture hammer it home: this is not a new reception center but an extension of the already existing checkpoint. Around a hundred additional people could therefore temporarily pass through these premises where water points, electrical outlets, care and even food will be available to them for the duration of their arrest. Or a few hours, at most, spent in France.
Difficult European support
Because according to the Dublin procedure signed in 2013 by the member countries of the European Union, a refugee wishing to request asylum is sent back to the first country which welcomed them: this is what we call a “Dubliné “. But faced with the risk of saturation in Italy, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, called on governments to help Rome. The solidarity of the continent is not materializing for the moment. Germany does not seem ready to resume its voluntary reception of refugees and France, via Emmanuel Macron, displays a firm speech: “We cannot welcome all the misery in the world, (…) we must better protect our borders”, insisted the French President in an interview given to 8 p.m. on TF1 and France 2, Sunday September 24.
In Marseille last week, François spoke of “a duty of civilization” to save migrants and legally integrate those who can be. A conviction echoed by Father Régis Peillon, priest of the Notre-Dame-des-Rencontres parish, in Menton. “The very identity of Christianity would be lost,” he declares. “On the other hand, we cannot be naive and irresponsible on the subject. Aid, proportional to what we can offer, must be part of a framework legal.” Father Régis affirms that if the municipality needs help, the parish is ready to provide it.
In the meantime, in the heart of the seaside town, if all eyes remain on Italy and the island of Lampedusa which is making headlines in the media, the people of Menton are no more worried than usual about a a situation that they consider everyday. Here, we simply wait for the sequence of events.