The reintroduction of border controls at the French/Italian border, as a response to the crisis discourse about migration, created a situation of humanitarian emergency in a potentially dangerous environment such as the Alpine one. In this context, increasing border-crossing facilitation practices are being carried out by a wide range of different social actors, both EU and non-EU citizens (local residents and migrants themselves), acting for different motivations. In a context of increasing criminalization of border-crossing facilitation practices, non-EU citizens (or racialized EU citizens) are usually stigmatized as unscrupulous smugglers acting exclusively in return for payment, while local residents moved by humanitarian concerns are alternatively represented as acting for hidden interests, or as irresponsible and privileged “do-gooders”. Through ethnographic observations and interviews in different localities at the French/Italian border, it is possible to detect the complex coexistence of different interests moving a wide range of actors, in a context characterised for the unequal structure of opportunities shaping EU and non-EU citizens' practices. The empirical analysis reveals that, while the definition of interested/disinterred act is practically impossible from a strictly moral point of view (when no material gain is available), humanitarian, ethical and political reasons are not exclusive of white European aiders providing free help to migrants in distress.


Cecilia Vergnano is a social anthropologist, Marie Slodowska-Curie Research Fellow at the Amsterdam Institute for Social Sciences Research (AISSR) of the University of Amsterdam, with a research project about the social and political impacts of the reintroduction of border controls within the Schengen area and the policing of asylum seekers autonomous mobility through pushbacks at internal EU borders. Her research interests are borderization processes, forced (im)mobilities, racialization processes, border-crossing facilitation practices, territorial stigmatization, forced evictions.