The proposed thesis project presents and discusses an orientation and legal aid office for migrants transiting the city of Ventimiglia. Due to the consistent flux of migrants travelling thorough Italy and the consequent closure of the border by France, many of them find themselves stuck and struggle in their attempt to somehow leave the country. In this dangerous and crime prone context, a group of activists decided to open a permanent centre with the aim of supporting the right of mobility for migrants. The multifunctional space called “Eufemia” is divided into three projects: an information and internet point to facilitate access to communication and services of the territory, a legal office to provide correct legal orientation on the European migration system and produce advocacy reports that can be publicly presented and a store to collect donated materials aimed at supporting transiting migrants during their journey. The second part of the thesis introduce a migration office opened in the municipality of Curicó (Chile) just few months ago in order to deal with the new flux of migrants mainly arriving from Haiti. Finally, this thesis presents a comparative analysis of the two aforementioned case studies, outlining the main similarities and differences of the two contexts, which I have experienced and contributed to in first person.
This thesis project, developed in the last two years of Master CoDe addresses the challenge of proposing services and activities that can bring about positive changes for the benefit of migrants. One of the themes that is often regarded as problematic – especially for the external states of EU – is the Dublin regulation and the lack of the right of mobility that forces migrants to remain in the first state of entrance. In Ventimiglia, a border city between Italy and France, migrants are stopped by the French police and forced to resort to dangerous and unconventional ways in order to cross the border. In the last year there have been 12 mortal accidents in which people died due to drowning, road accidents, precipitated from mountains, fulminated on top of train or in much more cases they get lost and injure themselves in perilous scenarios. In this context, Progetto20k, a group of people active in that territory, initiated a project to facilitate the trips that thousands of migrants are willing to embark on.
After a period spent in the territory, witnessing the conditions and motivations behind these trips, it has been easier to gain an understanding of what measures might be helpful in order to improve this tragic situation. The experience also made me question the very legitimacy of the border as well as the right of Italy and France to effectively stop people fleeing from wars and poverty. In this sense the “Migration Without Borders” scenario challenges conventional views on the need to control and restrict migration flows and brings fresh perspectives to contemporary debates. It introduces and supports the possibility of a right to mobility for all; it calls for an opening, not only for national borders, but also of the minds of those interested in the future of migration in a globalizing world. Indeed, the current living conditions that thousands of people are subject to is below the minimum standard that the Italian Constitution and the EU Charter of Fundamental Human Rights profess to guarantee. It is therefore fundamental to reconsider the human cost of border controls and verify their compatibility with the ideas of freedom, equality and justice.
The MWB scenario remains extremely complex in terms of implementation and uncertain in its possible effects, but it might prove useful as an inspiring model in order to take into account new and fairer practices of circulation.
The lack of available and accessible information and orientation regarding viable routes, services on the territory, rights and possible source of help, is a crucial issue that we decided to address in order to mitigate this severe situation. Info-point – the multifunctional space that recently opened in Ventimiglia – aims to be an information hub where migrants can get access to tools they need to make conscious and personal choices. The centre aspires to facilitate communication with locals people and authorities, as well as relatives and friends encountered on the trip or left behind at home. It provides free access to the internet, maps and other information sources that might help migrants in achieving their own goals. Further, a group of lawyers volunteer to provide legal guidance for all and to produce advocacy reports that can be publicly presented to the main international organisms of protection of human rights. The project aims to focus especially on migrants that are not “hosted” by any structure and thus live in the streets. At the same time, it aims to have a positive impact on the wellbeing of the whole city, boosting general public understanding of migration phenomena and the spirit of solidarity in the community.
The “Eufemia Info-point” has an active collaboration with the project “Melting Pot Europa”, the Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration”, the association “Popoli in Arte”, the organization “Medici Senza Frontiere” and the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The second part of the thesis, presents a study of an orientation office for migrants in the municipality of Curicó, Chile. The municipality decided to open this office in order to handle the new flux of migrants coming to the region, especially from Haiti. In general, the region has been experimenting growing numbers of migrants and a diversification of their characteristics and backgrounds. The challenge for this new office, the first in the region, has been to find a new approach to counter this phenomena and provide real answers for all newcomers facing economic and/or social problems. In this context, starting from the welcoming process, the project aims to boost the recognition, the sense of belonging to the community and the self-determination of those affected. Initially, a diagnostic of the situation was performed by students of the Catholic university of Maule in order to collect personal data and socio-economic information of migrants in Curicó. At the same time, public events were organized to sensitize citizens as to the migratory process and boost acceptance and active participation in the integration process. Moreover, a network of collaboration has been created among associations, institutions and citizens in order to provide integrated services. The migration office will fulfil the tasks of implementing orientation services, regularizing the legal situations, attending basic services and denouncing possible abuses.
Despite the fact that the two projects have different socio-cultural contexts, they have highlighted aspects that are worth studying and that might become sources of inspiration to broaden our horizons. Both Italy and Chile, although in different ways and proportions, will be experiencing constant and significant fluxes of migrants in the near future. The disruptive differences are the conditions and means of entry to the country that in the first instance are distinguished by thousands of deaths and violence all around Italian borders and in the Chilean case by weak migration laws that allow easy entry. In both cases, however, I have observed a timely and positive reaction of civil society that is starting to be actively engaged in order to support the incoming migrants.
As Michel Foucault wisely stated forty years ago “knowledge is power” and one of the main issues that both projects wish to address is an easier and clearer access to information and services. The lack of knowledge about the function of the respective migration system and the public-private services available is often a cause of exploitation, blackmail and dangerous choices. Both projects strive to avoid what is often a charitable and paternalistic approach and instead try to communicate with migrants to better understand the multiplicity of their needs and desire. Speaking on behalf of migrants by interpreting or guessing what they would like in order to improve their living conditions might create dangerous inferiority dynamics. It is therefore vital that we engage in building adequate social and political spaces where migrants can be supported in achieving their objectives and where it is their voices that provide weighty and direction to such activities.
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