Border Ecologies Network

Hostile Environment

Author: Riccardo Badano
Region: France / Italy border
Image: Génération Identitaire’s Operation Defend Europe, 22nd April 2017 (Génération Identitaire)

Hostile Environment is an investigation into the systematic 'weaponisation' of the alpine environment put in place to deter migrants' circulations along the Italian-French border. By funnelling migration routes outside urban areas, French and Italian state actors set the stage for the encounter between people in transit and the mountain 'wilderness'. Those who attempt border crossings are, then, have to face temperatures dipping dramatically below the zero, snowy cliffs and icy ravines. In the last years, hundreds that have climbed the routes without any food or proper equipment, have been retrieved by Alpine Rescue Teams, severely injured. Border enforcement strategy is as simple as effective: on one side, it relies on the fact that 'natural barriers' would serve to discourage illegal entry, de facto mobilising nonhuman actors— plants, animals, and biophysical elements—in the making of the boundary. On the other, it systematically re-directs accountability for injuries and casualties into 'nature', conceived for the occasion as space hermetically isolated from society and politics. Hostile Environment aims to re-trace this connection both by surfacing how the 'exposure' of asylum seekers is staged through legislative procedures and by analysing how the relationship between the alpine landscape and historical powers has evolved into the very definition of the border as we know today. In this context, the geography of the Alpine setting becomes a site of conflicts in which the intrinsic instability of its materiality confronts border enforcement's political agendas.