Geopolitics

On the treacherous “Pass of Death” – Europe’s deadly forgotten mountain border

It is so dangerous that the locals call it the Passo della Morte – the “Pass of Death”.

And that treacherous mountainous border crossing has tragically claimed the lives of many desperate migrants.

More refugees died here between Italy and France than across the English Channel.

But it’s the world’s forgotten frontier.

As we walked up the beginning of the steep path perched dangerously on the edge of terribly deep ravines, there was the abandoned evidence of migrants who had tried to cross the night before.

An empty bag of Huggers’ little swimmers’ diapers, kids’ clothes, and a pink bra.

Just over the hill, just 1 km away, is France

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There were documents in Arabic, a ticket from Genoa, and empty cans of sardines. A discarded suitcase, bags, a helmet – even a bunch of keys.

And there were heaps of stinking excrement.

Migrants begin their migration by walking past million pound houses overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

If the climb gets steeper and you look to the left, you can see the huge yachts in the port of the posh French town of Menton.

Beyond in the distance are the high-rise apartment blocks of the richest casino playground in the world – the tax haven of Monte Carlo.

And then within seconds you will be faced with a red arrow.

‘Detour. No France ‘reads the homemade sign

Discarded clothing and documents from migrants line the path of the Passo della Morte.

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It has been sprayed on a rock – by those who have gone before – that leads them up a mountain path and down to ravines and finally through a broken fence into France.

Here on the Italian-French border, dozens of migrants have died, electrocuted on the rails, run over by trucks or drowned in the sea.

In the heart of one of the richest parts of Europe, soldiers patrol the back roads in military trucks and armed police officers search for delivery vans and trucks at toll booths around the clock.

A main road to France has just been blocked with a warning sign: “Detour no France.”

The passport has claimed the lives of desperate migrants looking for a better life

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The migrants first arrive in the Italian coastal town of Ventimiglia. Dozens of them set up camp on the beach. They build emergency shelters out of driftwood to sleep in and to wash their clothes in the sea.

Some urinated openly and emptied on the bank.

Less than 20 meters away, guests at the posh Miramare restaurant order £ 27 grilled lobster or £ 25 roasted squid.

Locals played beach volleyball and took part in open air Pilates sessions. It was an absolutely surreal scene.

Varan Aminy, a Kurd from Iran, is on the phone with the woman he left behind

On the beach we met Varan Aminy, 35, a Kurd from Iran who has a master’s degree in urban planning. He used a hose from the only tap on the beach to wash his legs.

He fled because he was afraid for his life.

He said, “My best friend was killed. He was arrested in front of me and then taken away.

“He was beaten to death, but of course the authorities told his family that he died of ‘natural causes’.

“But we all understand that means – he was murdered.” We ran a small environmental group to look after a forest and wildlife in the area, but soldiers and police continued to burn it down.

“Then they threatened me and told me that I would be killed too. At that point, I decided to leave.

Among the items are children’s clothing, women’s bras and baby diapers, which suggest that families with young children also go this way

“I left my wife behind.

“It took me three months to get here, but I just can’t get over the French border.

“You won’t give me any papers.

“I just want to work and contribute to society. I don’t want flyers. “

He explained his route in almost perfect English. “I climbed the mountains from Iran to Turkey and then came to Istanbul,” he said.

An arrow shows the way

“I went through Greece, Macedonia and Croatia. Sometimes the police are brutal. “They beat you, some friends stole their money, clothes and shoes.

“The worst were the Greek police and the Croatian commandos.” When we spoke to him on the beach, his cell phone rang – it was his wife.

He said, “I have to take this.” I have no idea when I’ll see her again. “A little closer to the border we found a makeshift makeshift food station.

For many, it’s the last chance to eat before climbing the mountains on their journey.

Leeds UK volunteer Lily Gee, 26, has worked in Calais and Greece but was shocked by what she saw here. She said, “We offer people food and water.

Lily Gee, 26 years old from Headingly, Leeds

“Every day families and women come through.” They have made some very dangerous journeys to get here.

“Most of them try to get over on the train first, but when that doesn’t work, they try to make the way through the mountains.

“We see between 70 and 100 people every day.

“I’ve heard some terrible stories.” There was police brutality and real hostility.

“People were beaten and robbed. Guns were aimed at children.

“People shouldn’t be treated like that.”

Usually around 200 migrants live in Ventimiglia at the same time. In the Caffe Centrifughe on Piazza C. Battisti – in front of the city’s main train station – migrants sit outside and drink coffee while they charge their cell phones.

Spiegel reporter Andy Lines on site

One man offers to act as a “mountain guide” for a fee of 100 euros, while another insists that the train is a safer option. On the other side of the tracks I see groups of migrants waiting to climb on passing trains. People have also tried to cross by boat, beach, train and road.

There have been deaths on all of these routes in recent years. There are no official numbers, but locals said at least 30 were killed.

Under European law, France may, under certain circumstances, step up patrols at a selected border in order to prevent the movement of migrants.

Magali Brifflot, a resident, has complained about the migrants

Magali Brifflot from the area said, “It was terrible.

“The migrants sleep on the beach or wherever they can find shelter.

“The number of police officers trying to prevent them from crossing the border has increased significantly.

“They try to go on the beach, by sea, by train or on the motorway, and there is this mountain path.

“But the police know them all.

“I tried to help with some food and help, but the camp they were staying in closed a few months ago and that didn’t help at all.”

She added, “It’s just so sad for the migrants and it’s so sad for the city.”

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