As borders in Europe have become increasingly difficult to cross due to pandemic restrictions, some migrants and asylum seekers entering Europe via the Balkans try to reach France by hiking across the Alps from Italy.
The Italian-French Alps could represent the final difficult border crossing on a difficult journey for migrants. But climbing across them, especially in winter is difficult even for those who have overcome other dangerous obstacles along the way.
Many tried to do it at night so as not to be seen by the French National Gendarmerie patrolling snow bikes.
If they are seen near the border, they will be returned to Italy after several hours of detention.
Amir Hotak is a 23 year old asylum seeker who fled Afghanistan. He told reporters about the countries he had been through to come this far.
“Afghanistan to Iran, Iran to Turkey, Turkey to Greece, Greece to Albania, Albania to Montenegro, Montenegro to Bosnia, Bosnia to Croatia, Croatia to Slovenia. Then Italy, “he explained.
The Italian Red Cross has been monitoring the Italian side of the Alps in the city of Claviere since 2017 when the route was mostly crossed by migrants from Africa arriving by sea. But over the last few months, they said they saw people from different countries.
“Starting a few months ago, in 2020 the types of migrants passing through this region have changed a little, there are many families, often with children traveling along the Balkans, so the main nationalities are Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq,” he said. Michele Belmondo, Italian Red Cross volunteer.
“Accidents like avalanches occur frequently. Another big danger is temperature, cold. If a person is not equipped with gloves and thermal clothing, spending the night at -15C or -20C can be deadly.”
In Claviere, an Italian municipality bordering France, some 5,000 migrants have been stopped by the Red Cross since 2017.
And 1,500 of them happened in the last five months, according to Belmondo, who patrols the mountains to warn migrants of the dangers, helps them with blankets and in some cases rescues them.
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