An unprecedented initiative will kick-off in France on Monday, 30 April. Willing to gather together citizens and raise awareness about the situation of migrants coming to France, but also about the activists that give real substance to solidarity, l’Auberge des Migrants and Roya Citoyenne decided to organise a migrants’ march that will rock France from South to North.
A few days before starting this journey in the highly symbolic city of Vintimille, at the French-Italian border, Emilien and Anaïs agreed to answer a few questions for the MEGA campaign.
“How did this idea of crossing France come up? How many supports did you have at the beginning?”
François, the president of l’Auberge des Migrants, started to think about this a few months ago, as he wanted to raise awareness about the reception of migrants in France. In January we started contacting many organisations throughout the country, to know who would be on board in this journey. Indeed we were primarily looking for organisations working with migrants, but we also reached out at those which share our vision and help those in need. We now have several organisations that will help us alongside the march, but some of them unfortunately had to cancel their support, because of political pressures, especially in cities run by Front National mayors.
“How do you see the march, a few days after the adoption by the National Assembly of a restrictive law on asylum and migration?”
We do not focus on the outcome of the vote, our idea is really to engage people into a dialogue, to reflect about the way migrants are treated when they arrive in France. We will bring together organisations, local representatives, citizens, everyone who wants basically. They are all invited to debate, whether they agree with us or not.
Our main point is to talk about the reception of migrants, but first and foremost about the criminalization of solidarity, which happens all over Europe and especially in France. From the French-Italian border to Calais, dozens of ordinary citizens are considered criminals because they help people who put their lives at risk to flee war and misery. We really need to raise awareness about the daily threats, intimidations and pressure from police authorities.
“Did you think of some concrete expectations from the March?”
We did not yet plan any solutions; they will be developed throughout the different stages. Though, we have already launched a petition, so that people can support us. Of course we set up a crowdfunding campaign to support those who will march and we will collect various items (shoes, clothes, cover decks…) during our journey. This action has a budget (60,000€) which is hardly covered by not-for-profit organisations, so any kind of support is more than welcome. Anyone can dedicate some time, some money to our cause.
Our biggest challenge will be to reassure those citizens who are afraid of welcoming migrants, because of the criminalization of solidarity. There are many people in this situation.
“Are you expecting some transnational support through the March?”
This would definitely be great if many organisations from other countries would join us. We understand that it is difficult to bring them to France, for several reasons. Some Italian organizations will join us for the first stage in Vintimille, but with the recent events in the region, it might be complicated to cross borders.
We should have around 15 to 20 people at each stage, but having some European back-up is a very good idea. That could also show that organisations can show solidarity among each other, because this is not an issue confined to the French boundaries. Together with citizens from across the continent, we can show that we are opposed to this unfair Dublin regulation and to the lack of cohesion among Member States on the question of migration.
“Speaking about organisations and solidarity: what kind of organisations will help or support you? How can others join the March?”
We clearly want to gather together individuals, activists and organisations, in order to work better collectively. There are not so many spaces for these different groups to speak and raise their voice together. This March will be one of them. We hope to see many groups of citizens on our way, not only in these places where migration is a burning question, but also in places which do not necessarily face the same situation. We want to involve the local organizations, regardless of their sector of activities.
We will have movies, debates, dinners, with locals at each stage, in order to get to know each other a bit better. Sharing of experience is essential in our approach. There are already several partner organisations for each stage, while we are closely working with La Roya Citoyenne on the overall event. Though, any organization can be helpful and it is up to them to determine how and when they want to help: this is the meaning of solidarity.