After spending a week in astalli center at Palermo, recovering and helping with my fellows volunteers over there, I left Sicily and started my journey back to France. thought I did still had to stop at another hotspot I didn’t knew : the French Italian border where I knew the situation between Ventimiglia and the Roya valley was difficult for both the “migrants” and the helpers.
I heard about the story of many local people being arrested for helping the travellers to cross, to rest etc… Cedric Herrou, Felix croft and some others…
I seemed that what I have always found (meaning that everything is make to disable the helpers to help) was actually taking form here as a bunch of laws making the helpers life a real struggle.
Then I decided to go.
I packed my stuff, collected some donations in Palermo and left for the northern border.
I arrived three days after and met straight away the people from “Roya citoyenne” a group of local helpers in the valley.
There, I met Cedric who proposed me to come to his place the day after.
His house was built in the countryside between the Italian frontier and Breil Sur Roya, lost on a mountain alongside the road and virtually inaccessible… Somehow lost into the wild of the Alpes.
You had to walk up to a little rocky track to access the place.
There, everything was completely different from the world you knew.
For a while, I knew how to live off the grid thanks to my nomadic way of life, but know I was experiencing a different way of living off the society and our capitalist system… A sedentary lifestyle which was enabling sustainability ecology and self sufficiency.
Cedric was a farmer. The kind of farmer capable of running his own activity by himself without relying on massive agriculture, machines and so on… His activity was honest, humble and enough for him.
Most of the furniture of the place was handmade
The food was coming from the lands, both vegetables and animals.
The water was pumped from the river and warmed by firewood.
The toilet, the shower, the garbage… Most the infrastructure here was self sustainable and ecological.
It made me though about this kind of off the grid community willing to return to the simplicity of a different way of life going back to the nature and the basics of living.
But more than a simple hippy, Cedric was devoting his time and place to help the migrants stuck in the no man’s land of la Roya…
Around 20 people were living there during this time of the year, Cedric, two or three volunteers and ten to fifteen “illegal travellers ” who were staying here waiting to go further safely.
The guys from la Roya explained me that strangely, even being on the French territory, the migrants here couldn’t ask for asylum yet and have to go at least to Sosfel or Nice to request the asylum… Then, in the valley, these people were still risking being send back to Italy by the police if they’re catch.
What Cedric was doing was to hide them the time for them to rest and to give them the crucial information about the tracks to follow to get to these cities without being seen and catch by the police.
He used to drive them before but, since his attestation, couldn’t do this any more.
But even disable of driving the people, he was hosting a lot of them and was also helping the other members of the valley willing to help.
And it’s funny to realize that even with the attestation, the court and the penalties the people were facing from the state, even being send to the police station randomly during the food distribution at Ventimiglia… More and more people were rising against the “criminal justice ” which was making sure that you couldn’t help the people.
The anti-migration policy was somehow making people guilty of being human but most of the ones I met were taking this risk, preferring being a human in jail than a free */+$”!
And I spent a week with Cedric and the other “delinquants solidaires “, building storage cabin, shelves and places to facilitate the work in the place.
As he told me, now they were few people and a lot of needs regarding the organization… What will it be in summer with hundreds of refugees?
Then I decided to help him by building, hoping these constructions would makes the work easier and more efficient for them.
And it reminded me Calais and the Woodward work, cutting wood all day long, hearing the jigsaw and smelling the wood…
But assembling the all to create construction was kind of new and I really enjoyed seeing the things taking form little by little.
And the migrants too were enjoying helping me out in the process till the finalisation.
Working with them was a bit like the time I was in lesvos when we were involving the refugees in the daily work… I’d say that’s one of the most beautiful thing to share with them… Creating something together.
And we also went to the daily food distribution happening in Ventimiglia.
The people from the valley were cooking meals from 8am to 6pm and then, were going to the city to feed the hundreds of migrants stuck there without anything.
Every distribution was a gamble… You never knew if you was about to be arrested or if it’d go OK.
And it was unbelievable that we had to go like dealers or criminals, hiding ourselves from the police, just to give out food to people in need.
And of course the police was forbidding us to do so… Saying that it was about “health laws” and prevention… Yes, letting people starving is a well better way to solve a health problem…
We were arrested by lucky enough not to be sent at the commissary.
And we had to leave half of the donations behind.
Sad situation that made me once again understand the gap between our government and the situation on the field.
So far I would say that these delinquents from the Roya valley are part of the best persons on this world.
Of course they have some problems, their organization could works better, they have their own personality and some of them might be seen as lawless… But their common specificity is to be human more than civilians and it’s maybe why they are seen by the governments as criminals… Thought, I’d do the same than them and I’m glad to feels part of this group of criminal.
The only thing sad is to realise humanity start to become illegal…