In July 2016, following months spent searching for suitable areas and with the support of the local authority, the Prefecture opened Campo Roja (Roja Camp), entrusting its running to the Red Cross. Somewhat ironically, Campo Roja is located on a disused portion of railway land originally used for customs checks before Schengen (Menghi, 2018).
Although not officially set up in order to detain people, there is little doubt that the Camp functions as a means of containing and controlling bodies in space (Menghi, 2018; Tazzioli & Garelli, 2018; Mountz et al., 2013). The Camp was created as part of the process of expulsion of migrants from Ventimiglia, to identify a place to funnel them, while avoiding the presence of settlements (formal and informal) in the city centre. The centre has capacity for 360 residents but often takes in many more, housing them in tents that are available for this purpose. Each living area, a little less than 15 square metres (TEU standard, container unit) (Menghi, 2018), consists of a single room housing around six people, each of them having a camp bed and a blanket. Those who are in transit have been staying in Ventimiglia for a few days, or at most a few weeks. The camp exhibits several immediate problems: the distance from the city centre (approximately 4 km), a lack in sanitation facilities (outpatient clinic opens from 10 to 13 from Monday to Friday); and promiscuous (women and children) conditions from July 2017.
The description of the camp as being for “transit” serves as a clue to some of its characteristics. First of all, it is not a closed camp. The migrants can come and go, subject to rules that have gradually become more and more restrictive. The ability of outsiders to enter is much more limited. Entry is guaranteed only for some NGOs and some individuals who have asked the Prefecture for permission, which can be granted for short periods depending on the reasons for the request.
The Roja Camp, opened to people with diverse “legal statuses”; this differentiates it from other centres for migrants. The Camp is included in the tactics of a different kind of people, not only for those who try to cross the border. Many people come to the camp to speed up integration into the Italian reception system or to return after a period of expulsion.
Menghi, M. (2018). Intorno alla frontiera: politiche di contenimento e pratiche di mobilità sul confine di Ventimiglia. Mondi Migranti, 2, pp. 39–60.
Mountz, A., et al. (2013). Conceptualizing detention: Mobility, containment, bordering, and exclusion. Progress in Human Geography, 37(4), pp. 522–541.
Tazzioli, M., Garelli, G. (2018). Containment beyond detention: The hotspot system and disrupted migration movements across Europe. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, pp. 1–19.