Migrants Braving Italian Alps in Pursuit of New Beginnings Despite Hurdles


In the shadow of the Italian Alps, a chapter in the great human journey is unfolding. Men, seemingly unmoored from the soil of their African and Middle Eastern origins, find themselves swapping the comfort of familiar sandals for the practical rigidity of hiking boots. They stand at the threshold of an uncertain passage to an imagined freedom, in the quaint alpine town of Oulx where locals have endeavored to assist their journey into the unknown.

These are merely a microcosm of a larger tide – approximately 130,000 migrants, mostly young men, who’ve stormed the Italian borders this year. They’ve arrived here from Africa and the Middle East, their eyes set on France and eventually, the UK. France, however, having reestablished its border controls with Italy, has made this aspiration more difficult.

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The European Court of Justice recently opined that these confrontational pushbacks violate EU law, urging a formal decision provision for the return of migrants. The court further iterated that forced removal ought to be the last resort in dealing with these migrants.

Among these hopeful migrants is Omar, a Nigerian whose ship of dreams sailed from Libyan shores. After paying a hefty sum to smugglers, he braved the treacherous Mediterranean trip, eventually finding himself in Italy, and then at the French border. “I just want to have a good life and study there,” Omar confides, revealing his desire to reach the UK.

Despite his knowledge of economic migrants being denied asylum and deported, Omar is undeterred, stating a profound desire to fulfill his parents’ dreams, fueled by a readiness to challenge his fate as often as necessary.

The volunteers provide food, warm clothes, and boots for the dangerous journey, fully aware of the risks the migrants face crossing the mountain paths. But the unforgiving alpine wilderness with its perilous rocky routes is as relentless as the laws of lands beyond. “If I see somebody who needs something, and I know the risks in the mountains, can I allow them to walk like this? This is the responsibility of all of Europe,” says Elena, one of the volunteers.

Once they reach Claviere’s border after a brisk bus journey, the migrants scatter into the forest, away from prying eyes and the dreaded specter of border police. Yet others carry out their quest for a better life in the coastal city of Ventimiglia, their hopes pinned on cross-border trains. But the relentless border controls and strict French authorities lurk as a formidable obstacle, ready to expel any passenger lacking identity papers.

Amid the hardships and the repeated cat-and-mouse scenarios lies an unflagging spirit, representing a new and enduring bottleneck in Europe. As the bold determination of the desperate continues to test their limits, they hold hope of surmounting both insurmountable peaks and ungrudging policies. Yet, as the crisp alpine air fills with uncertainty, it is evident that the human quest for freedom, a fundamental pursuit, can be halted temporarily but is hard to extinguish entirely.