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Introduction

The initial idea behind this project was to tell the story, under different points of view and with different approaches, of the continuous flow of refugees and “asylum seekers” who would make stopovers at the Bolzano and Brenner stations, before continuing their journey towards Northern Europe. We realised, however, that the viewpoint needed to be changed, the scope broadened, in an attempt to also analyse what was taking place from a historical and geographical perspective, starting from the period when the Brenner became a state border, taking a look at the other borders, Ventimiglia and Lampedusa in particular, and eventually focusing on what the Schengen Agreements actually signified.

“Europa Dreaming” is a project in which researchers, anthropologists, journalists, photographers and designers offered their point of view, attempting to contextualise what is happening to the European dream, to those who live there and to those who arrive there.

 

What happens when the European dream meets the dream of migrants?

 
 

What happens when the European dream meets the dream of migrants?

 
 

Europe, the broken dream

It is the spring of 2016 and the Brenner is likely to go back to being a frontier, “an officially defined and recognised border line, equipped, in various cases, with appropriate defensive systems” (Treccani). Compared to the past, however, border barriers are no longer used to delimit our spaces in relation to our “neighbours”, nor to reduce and/or control trade between two neighbouring countries, but with the explicit goal of decreasing the inflow of people coming into the country, from other continents, from places located thousands of kilometres away. The decision to re-introduce border controls between Italy and Austria has been defined by many newspapers as “the end of the Schengen dream”, but this work shows a different reality.

Because the Schengen Agreement, which was intended to create an area of free movement within the European Union, has been essentially based – and from the very beginning – on a “policing” agreement. Because “the fall of internal borders was complemented by the strengthening of the borders external to the Schengen area” (Internazionale). The point is that the “strengthening of external borders” was not the corollary outcome, but the very essence of this Agreement. It is no coincidence that work on the first European “wall”, the Ceuta and Melilla border fences (funded by the European Union) began in the fall of 1995.

 
 

The Schengen Agreement is still a treaty between police and police efficiency, which to me does not appear to be the best model as far as Europe is concerned.

(A. Langer, 1995)

 
 

1995-2015 What has changed in 20 years?


 
1995

The words quoted above were spoken by Alexander Langer in an interview conducted by Radio Radicale on the French-Italian border in Ventimiglia. It was June 27, 1995, just six days before the MEP from Vipiteno took his own life. In the original audio, you can hear the protests of refugees from Bosnia who had been prevented from crossing the border into France. At that time, Italy was trying to adapt to the norms laid down by the Schengen Agreements, those whose intent was to abolish customs controls within European borders but which, as evidenced by the facts, led to the attempt to build the “European fortress”.

2015

“For the umpteenth time the migration phenomenon was offloaded on the agents, taking advantage of their sense of duty and humanitarian spirit. This, however, does not exempt us from expressing certain opinions. Citizens are concerned about the lack of action on the part of politicians, reluctantly aware of politics being a sort of social “relief” and that the issue at hand is not a security problem, nor one that can be solved by police.”

(Mario Deriu, regional secretary of the Siulp police union in Bolzano - Corriere dell'Alto Adige 12/06/2015)

 
 

Europe’s walls

I believe that a Europe with such a high degree of hermetic closure around itself, may perhaps guarantee the free movement of its citizens, but this is not a great promise towards its neighbours.

(A. Langer, 1995)

 

Alexander Langer was not prophetic, he was simply attentive to the most important issues, those that were putting Europe’s future at stake. Because the so-called “immigration emergency” has been underway for twenty years, while in Europe, the construction of useless and damaging walls had already began in 1995.

 
 

The Ceuta and Melilla fences, like the others that were built one by one, have not, of course, solved anything, while not facing the reality and size of the issue within an electoral and political consensus perspective, has led to today’s consequences. The signs, however, were already there, with the headlines and the videos that follows as prime examples.

 
Ceuta, 8,4 km Estonia/Russia, 100 km Cyprus, 180km Greece/Turkey, 12km Italy/Austria ? Bulgary/Turkey, 33km Asotthalom, 175 km Militarized border Calais, 11 km Melilla, 11 km
sources: http://www.migreurop.org/ http://en.closethecamps.org/ Last update December 2015.
 

When we finish putting up a great wall, we will be ready for Schengen

(A. Langer, 1995)

 

A century of Brenner

Austria has decided to re-introduce border controls along the Brenner pass. Is it a decision that will have a positive outcome? No one has a crystal ball, but a glance towards the past can help us better understand the issue. The Brenner pass has served as a border point between Italy and Austria going back to the end of World War I. Ever since, it has not only been crossed by tourists, but, primarily, by individuals fleeing from war, dictatorships or more simply put from misery. It was crossed by refugees at the end of the “Great War”, by “optants” shortly before the Second World War, by Jews headed to extermination camps beginning in 1943, and then again by armies en route, by prisoners of war, and finally forty years later, once again by refugees.

First from the Balkans, then from the rest of the world. But between the end of World War II and the war in Bosnia, the Brenner was also a place of passage for hundreds of thousands of Italian workers who sought fortune in Germany and often found it. The facts and the numbers that follow attempt to demonstrate all this and, above all, to offer a different perspective with respect to what is happening today.

The First World War The Brenner border is born The Brenner
 emigrants Italian migration during Nazism The South Tyrolean "optants"
 The Second World War Deportee Primo Levi at the Brenner
 The return of World War II refugees
 Primo Levi makes his return to Italy
 The Boom years The Italian Gastarbeiter The new German workforce The one millionth "Gastarbeiter" Refugees from the former Yugoslavia Italians in Germany The Schengen Agreement Abolishment of the boundaries The restore of the boundaries? 1915 1920 1925 1930 1935 1940 1945 1955 1950 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015

Multiple delocalised borders

The original objective of the “Schengen zone” was the establishment of an area of free movement for European citizens within the Union. This led to the gradual abolition systematic controls along the internal borders, but also the strengthening of controls at external borders, to the development of a common policy regarding visas and asylum requests, the creation of the SIS database and a general strengthening of judicial systems and police cooperation. Article 20 of the “Schengen Code” establishes the abolition of internal controls and stipulates that: “internal borders may be crossed anywhere without border checks being carried out on persons, regardless of their nationality. However, while systematic border controls have been abolished, for reasons relating to internal security, Member States may carry out non-continuous and targeted spot-checks within their own territory and in border areas”. On the other hand, the aim of the “Dublin Convention” is to identify the country responsible for examining the application for international protection within the EU, establishing first entry as the prime criterion, in other words the first European country reached by the applicant.

The official reason is to ensure that at least one of the Member States takes charge of an applicant, and that applications are not submitted in multiple States. Those moving independently and irregularly, can therefore be relocated to the first country of arrival (identified through fingerprints recorded in the EURODAC database). But after 15 years of attempts and 25 years of “Dublin”, a common European Union asylum system or even a simple framework characterised by minimum common harmonised standards is still far from reach. Today, many organisations are pursuing moving away from this system, in order to take into account the interests of individual States, but also those of applicants for international protection.

 

The Schengen acquis

(The Schengen system)

Italy, today, does not provide the necessary assistance to people who legitimately seek asylum.

(A. Langer, 1995)

Accross borders: the numbers

 

In 2015, approximately 30 to 70 individuals per day, mostly between 20 and 30 years old, crossed the Brenner Pass, who one way or another managed to pass the trilateral controls (Italian, Austrian and German police) set up to tackle the problem.

We are talking about 2,500 to 3,000 crossings each month (source: Social Policies Division of the Autonomous Province of South Tyrol) for a total of 26,000 people in 2015 and approximately 30% of the 153,842 refugees who landed in Italy last year (source: Unhcr).

 
 

2015: landings of migrants in Greece, Italy and Spain

 
 

The numbers and the geography demonstrate precisely how the Schengen Treaty is the child of a rather partial conception of what Europe was supposed to become. Because the agreement concerning the control of external borders and the subsequent Dublin Convention appear to lose interest in a key geographic factor: Europe’s natural border is largely made up of the sea, in particular the Mediterranean Sea. Northern European countries most likely believed that they would be able to offload the issue on Mediterranean countries, but the numbers show just how wrong they were. It is suffice to take a look at data relating to landings in Italy, Greece and Spain, and to compare it with subsequent figures on requests for asylum and the response times associated with the various EU countries.

 
1,030,894 Refugees/migrants landed in Europe in 2015
1000 migrants/refugee landed in Greece,Italy and Spain
 

2015: First time asylum applicants

(The first nine countries according to the requests amount)

 
Germany 441800 Hungary 174435 Sweden 156110 Austria 85505 Italy 83245 France 70570 Netherlands 43035 Belgium 38990 United Kingdom 38370
1000 First time asylum applicants

Each European country
has its own asylum conditions

 

6 months

Sweden

France

Germany

Hungary

 
 

6 months is the average time expected to process an asylum request in Europe.

up to 7 months

up to 7 months

up to 11 months

up to 12 months

 
 

Belgium

Greece

Italy

UK

Cyprus

 
 

up to 12 months

up to 18 months

up to 24 months

up to 36 months

up to 36 months

 

6 months

6 months is the average time needed to process an asylum request in Europe.

Sweden

up to 7 months/p>

France

up to 7 months/p>

Germany

up to 11 months

Hungary

up to 12 months

Belgium

up to 12 months

Greece

up to 18 months

Italy

up to 24 months

UK

up to 36 months

Cyprus

up to 36 months

 

Despite the fact that the EU directive states 6 months as the time required to process an application for asylum by the country in charge, the reality is quite different, with extreme cases such as those occurring in Cyprus, where applications can take up to 30 additional months to be processed compared to the timeframes established by law, a clear demonstration of a lack of “harmonisation” within the member countries.


This premise certainly does not helps the process of inclusion of the asylum seeker within the new environment, nor that of expulsion if the request is rejected, without taking into account the unequal treatment offered by individual countries.

What’s more, a directive or clause regarding minimum standards associated with measures and integration/inclusion services of a social, linguistic and employment nature for asylum seekers is also missing, which should accompany the reception measures. Without shared conditions and schedules, or at the very least homogeneous among the various constituent EU countries, it will be very difficult to curb the daily phenomenon migrants who cross non-European borders to be reunited with their families or simply to try to take advantage of a treatment perceived as more advantageous, during the necessary application verification time.

Across borders: the people

To better understand what happens on a daily basis around a mobile border, we interviewed a number of refugees who, on a daily basis, have made their way across from Bolzano and from the Brenner. For the most part, they were from Eritrea and were looking to reach Northern Europe. They had left their homeland because of the harsh military dictatorship and were trying to reach relatives, primarily in Germany and Sweden.

The long journey involves crossing the border with Sudan and the arrival in Khartoum, where the refugees typically remain for a few months working to raise the money necessary to continue their journey. Relying on Libyan and Eritrean smugglers, they then cross the Sahara and reach Libya, where, in Tripoli, they embark to reach Lampedusa and continue to Sicily, Rome and the Brenner pass, which is only a door that stands between them and Northern Europe. Those we interviewed all made it across.

Having to die to stay alive

He left his country, Senegal, and wants to thank Italians and Europeans for still being alive, instead of lying dead at the bottom of the sea.

The journey documented on a mobile phone

His journey told through mobile shots: the Coast Guard rescue, the Lampedusa immigration camp, travel companions.

The American dream

From Ethiopia to Europe to the United States, how? I don't know exactly, but I know that nothing is impossible, like crossing the desert and the Mediterranean sea and still being alive.

Dreaming of Germany

In 500 on a boat, a woman gives birth, rescue efforts and his fate hanging on the asylum process: if Germany will grant his request it is good news, otherwise he will continue his pilgrimage.

Permanent military service

In Eritrea at 17 years of age, young boys join the army and serve for their entire life, without the option to choose, for €10 per month.

 

An object that has protected you during the trip?

This is the question posed to migrants in transit from the Brenner, during various stages of research. The long journey and robberies suffered mean that very little remains of the migrants’ original baggage: bibles, tattoos, smartphones and, rarely, necklaces and rings. Many have crosses around their neck, often as a symbol of protection from the risks and dangers of the journey. With their smartphones, on the other hand, refugees write home and ask for information from friends and family who have already arrived at their destination along the intended route. Their mobile also contains albums of family photographs, perhaps the most intimate and precious thing that refugees bring with, which they only rarely shared.

Tattoos, often designed by friends or, in some cases, by their parents, are frequently characterised by sacred themes and assume a two-fold value: that of a religious “protector” and that of a “bond” with family and friends far away. It is as if in the face of adversity, a sort of emergency mode was turned on, composed of objects and feelings of an intimate, family or religious nature, capable of consoling and instilling strength and endurance.

(in order to protect those involved, we have concealed the faces of relatives or friends of refugees who agreed to have their photo taken)

Every single migrant who arrives must not essentially be left to fend for themselves, alone and helpless, but we must agree to integrate the immigrant into an accord between countries.

(A. Langer, 1995)

Europe’s dilemma between financial parameters and human rights

Everything written so far inevitably ends up pointing the finger on an issue that continues to remain unsolved. What is Europe today? What does it want to become? How does it see or imagine itself? We have not found the answer, because, apparently, nobody has the answer. For years, hand in hand with the question of the single currency, Europe saw itself as an exclusive club, admitting only those who had the right credentials in place. And we are referring to entire States, not individuals, because in the meantime, as has always been the case, people have continued to overcome the boundaries, despite walls and fences, despite the dangers.

It is natural, therefore, that in 2016, despite the Schengen Agreement and the Euro, very little appears to have changed. Financial and economic parameters are still being discussed, external borders continue to be strengthened and, now, internal ones are also being reinstated. Twenty years have passed in vain, because we have stubbornly turned our heads away from the real problem, focusing on political consensus rather than actually solving the issues at hand. And only now are we finally coming to terms with the fact that all this has resulted in the sediment of a deep resentment towards Europe and its treaties, a fact that threatens to reopen scenarios we had believed to be closed. Scenarios that above all, are killing the European dream.

The great European slumber

 
Credits
  • Matteo Moretti Researcher at Unibz, coordination, data visualization, visual storytelling
  • Massimiliano Boschi Journalist, storytelling e archive research
  • Monika Weissensteiner Anthropologist, Fondazione Langer, European asylum policiy consultant, interviews
  • Valeria burgio Researcher at Unibz, support and scientific consultant
  • Claudia Corrent Photographer
  • Luca Pisoni Etno-archeologist, video interview
  • Alessio Cimarelli Data Scientist, Dataninja.it, data visualisation developmnet support
  • Tobias Bernard Developer, timeline developmnet support
  • with the support of
  • spacial thanks
  • Sacha Biazzo Video shooting of Bolzano e Ventimiglia
  • Riviera24.it Video shooting of Ventimiglia
  • Associazione Volontarius
  • ripartizione Politiche Sociali della Provincia autonoma dell'Alto Adige
  • media partners