The Caravan of the Opening of the Borders takes the direction of the Franco-Italian border after having visited the places of memory of the south of France.
The Caravan heads for border migration routes in the Alps after visiting the Irun-Hendaia border and the concentration camps in southern France that were established in the late 1930s.
The acts in memory of those who in the past and present lost their lives at the borders occupied an important place in this first stage of the Caravan of the Alps Pyrenees.
In Irún, a few meters from the Bidasoa, a monolith was unveiled with the inscriptions of two verses in Basque by the bertsolari Amets Arzallus, author of the book Miñan Hermanito: “In painful memory of the migrants who left their last breath here. Borders that close the road to migrants who open roads”. An aurresku and a moving memory of each of the nine people who lost their lives at this border last year accompanied the event.
In Bielsa, a second tribute was paid to exiled Republicans. Between April and June 1938, the resistance of the 43rd division made it possible to evacuate more than 5,000 people from Aragon to France and became an example of organization and solidarity of the Republican fighters and the French people with the people of Aragon. .
More than 500,000 people were exiled by the armed conflict of the Civil War following Franco’s military coup and the host country for many of them was France, so “we wanted to offer recognition to all these people, their struggle, their resistance to fascism, their survival in the French and Nazi concentration camps and their struggle to defend the ideals of freedom”.
The migratory route of this European solidarity caravan includes a visit to the former concentration camps of Gurs and Rivesaltes, as well as the beach of Argelès, which was the initial destination of many of these exiles. The Basque historian Josu Chueca, author of the book “Gurs, the Basque camp” gave a lecture on the living conditions in the camps inside a reconstructed barracks. Built near Oloron in 1939, it hosted more than 5,000 Republicans, most of Basque origin. In 1940 it also locked up Jews, gypsies and foreigners and housed up to 18,000 people, many of whom died because of the harsh conditions, 3,907 were transported in trucks to be gassed at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
On the beach of Argelès, the first of the 180 camps in the south of France, a meeting took place on Tuesday with the descendants of the internees. “It took 60 years to start remembering and recognizing what happened here. The first events were attended by only one or two people,” said one of them. Today, a monolith and a plaque remind us that many people lived and died on this beach. Hayer Ayachi, a Tunisian mother with a missing son who travels in the caravan, also spoke: “I will continue to build even if others destroy. I will continue to believe even if others have lost hope.
In the afternoon, members of the Caravan visited the Rivesaltes Concentration Camp Memorial where up to 60,000 people of 100 different nationalities were interned at different times and historical conflicts: Republican exile, World War II, decolonization, etc. It remained open until 2007 as an administrative detention center for migrants. The construction of the Memorial, inaugurated in 2015, led to its transfer to another location near the airport.
During the tour, meetings and exchanges of experiences took place in the different destinations with local groups that defend the rights of forcibly displaced people, with whom actions were carried out to denounce the migratory and neocolonial policies of the European Union. and to claim the right to migrate in dignified conditions, because, as the caravanist Aboubakar Aminou said in front of the town hall of Perpignan after the anti-racist and anti-fascist demonstration: “If you want to talk about memory, if you want to ask why we come to Europe , first ask yourself why you came to Africa”.
The Elna maternity hospital, where Swiss nurse Elizabeth Eidenbenz delivered more than 500 babies to women in surrounding camps, was the last stop on the Caravan route before continuing to its new destination, the Franco-Italian border.