The Caravan for Freedom of Movement was the first demonstration at the European borders since the beginning of the pandemic. After the day of mobilisation on 17 April, which took place in three different symbolic locations around Trieste, this time the activists aimed straight at the external border of the European Union.
“This demonstration expresses our absolute opposition to the European policy of migration management. It is a caravan that wants to oppose the new pact on migration and asylum that only provides for camps and deportations, the Frontex agency and all the brutal violence and push-backs that take place on the borders”, explained Francesco Sartori and Federica Franchi of the Lesvoscalling campaign at the start. “We are the only ones who really contest the policies imposed on the eastern border and for this reason we have a great responsibility“, added Gian Andrea Franchi of Linea D’Ombra, the Trieste-based association that every day in Piazza della Libertà assists and takes care of migrants supporting their journey. “This must be the beginning of a path that we must take in Italy and in Europe to contest this deadly violence of borders and confinement camps, supporting in all possible ways migrants and their possibility to move”.
The caravan, which left from the Pesek border crossing, was certainly a moment of expression of the synergy of different Italian and international realities that have in common a radical criticism of the EU border regime. Along the way, vehicles from Slovenia, Austria and the Czech Republic joined the snake of cars that travelled backwards along part of the Balkan route, redefining it with strong and precise contents. “Stop pushbacks“, “Refugees welcome“, “Abolish Frontex“, “Open the borders” were the messages that tourists and inhabitants of the towns they passed through were able to read on the flags and posters affixed to the caravan’s car windows.
Crossing Slovenia, the illegality of pushbacks between Italy and Slovenia was highlighted, and in Croatia the brutality of the police, a direct agent of European migration policies, was underlined. In the last few years, the country has been supported by the EU with huge amounts of money to deploy a brutal police force on the border, accused in several reports of practices comparable to torture, even against minors, sexual assaults on women, sadistic abuse of power such as removing shoes and clothes from migrants in winter. In spite of this, or perhaps precisely because of the way it carries out its work as border guard, Brussels has increased the funds and the equipment dedicated to the control of the Croatian-Bosnian border, supported in these operations by Frontex.
“They want to offload the management of migrants to Bosnia and Herzegovina by trapping them in confinement camps, endlessly reproducing a policy of camps-lager functional to the externalisation of borders as it happens in Turkey or Libya“, the activists said.
Once they reached the town of Maljevac, the speeches near the Croatian-Bosnian border insisted on the need for free human mobility and the right to self-determination of bodies, reminding that the instigators of violence and rejections reside in the palaces of European institutions and that only a strong European movement uniting networks of activism and migrant people can change the situation. “Only migrants before us have protested on this border, it was 2018 and for three days women, men and children asked to be allowed to pass, but were blocked, beaten and rejected by the police“, Gian Andrea Franchi recalled.
The Caravan stressed the importance of weaving networks of solidarity and political denunciation, which is why the groups unfurled a large banner of the international campaign #Abolishfrontex, which aims to close the European Border and Coast Guard Agency and divert funds to welfare policies.
The day ended with a collective relaunch of the path and relations, with the perspective of opening spaces of initiative once returned to the territories of origin with the aim of building future actions in the decision-making places of European policies on migration. From Maljevac, an armoured border of fortress Europe, the words of anger and denunciation must cross national borders to reach directly the palaces of Brussels.
The caravan just reached Maljevac, on the border between Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Here we stand with our bodies against this border regime that every day kills thousands of people!#AbolishFrontex #OpenTheBorders#Balkanroutecalling pic.twitter.com/YlX5m0BHbC
— Lesvos Calling (@CallingLesvos) June 19, 2021