Special “I could have been a terrorist and no one stopped me” Closing Italy’s borders to prevent Hamas fugitives is a bluff. The secret journey of the Today.it journalist: “I walked from Croatia to Trieste without any obstacles. This is what I saw”

The suspension of the Schengen agreement and the resulting closure of the borders between Slovenia and Italy is a bluff. There are no controls at the small passes, and immigrants coming from the Balkan route know that to reach Trieste, it is enough to walk through the forest area behind the city, as they always do. I walked the 70 kilometers of northeastern Istria region that separates Croatia from our country. There is not even a shadow of the police and border guards on duty at the borders. The closure of the borders taken by the Italian government after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7 is a lie that only manifests itself when the main border gates are crossed. However, in addition to the terrorist threat allegedly lurking in the Balkans, one of the reasons behind the decision was the desire to reduce or at least try to deter the flow of migration (in the photo above, Today.it journalist, Nicolò Giraldi, during the trip from Croatia to Trieste – photo by Giovanni Aiello-TriestePrima).

However, when it comes to borders dividing forests and clearings, there is almost no one to control immigrants. Before I arrived in Italy, Slovenian police caught me twice in the forest behind Val Rosandra. The first is near the railway, near Podgorje. They arrive in an unmarked car. They don’t have sirens or flashing lights. A police officer quickly got out of the car. He comes to meet me, asks where I am going, where I plan to cross the border. This last detail is important; especially for the police car that would be waiting for me a few kilometers ahead, on the route to the Italian border.

Then the Slovenian police released me

The first check takes a few minutes, but I manage to get on the road immediately. Two hours later I emerge from the bush northwest of the town of Črnotiče and cross a paved road. A few seconds passed and a black SUV cut me off. When recording me for the second time I asked “Why Trieste-Podgorje and Trieste again?” they ask. “I come from Croatia,” I replied. There is a dog in the car. He barks several times. They are confused, perhaps they suspect that I am a smuggler or a setter. But I’m a European citizen and I’m well equipped enough to look like a hiker. They check the database, keep me there for a few minutes. Then they left me. I’m clean”.

Journalist Nicolò Giraldi during the break (photo Giovanni Aiello-TriestePrima)

Most of the nearly 12 thousand people who came to Trieste from the Balkan route this year took this route. “A resident of Buzet, a town in Croatian Istria, says hundreds are seen every day; today there are very few of them, but we continue to see them.” The migrants’ pedestrian journey towards Italy first of all starts from here. They come from Rijeka by bus. In summer, connection is daily. However, today the bus only leaves on Thursdays. Immigrants can complete the work that I do in three days in less than 20 hours. They drink energy drinks one after another. Redbull, Monster and Hells cans are everywhere along the route.

When I arrive at Socerb Castle (San Servolo, on the dividing line between Slovenia and Italy), it is raining incessantly. I’m sliding towards the border. Toothbrushes on the road, almost untouched toothpaste, cans of mackerel, sports jackets as well as leather jackets, small shoes and slippers for children, “metals” (silver blankets), boots, woolen caps, umbrellas, baby carriages, cards, telephone calls, residence permits – torn. All frozen in a landscape that was embarrassingly desolate in late December.

The lie about camera traps in the forest

Arrival in Italy only occurs after crossing the unmanned border. There is a white sign in Italian and Slovenian from the Cold War era: “State border at 70 metres” (photo by Giovanni Aiello-TriestePrima below the text). It wasn’t until after I saw the sign that I realized I was trespassing. Without this indicator, no one would understand this. And those who travel this route know this very well. It modernized over time. It is not impossible to travel without being “caught” by the police, on the contrary. Camera traps in the forest in Italy are located in the main passages, despite their announcements. No one patrols the forest. When I pass, everyone passes. When I arrive in San Dorligo della Valle, I stop in front of the gendarmerie barracks. It overlooks the square. It’s raining and the streets are deserted.

Railway to the Italian border in Istria (photo Giovanni Aiello-TriestePrima)

To get here, I walked for hours on the same metal sleepers of the railway line (photo above by Giovanni Aiello-TriestePrima) on which migrants from the Balkan route travel to cross the Istrian border between Croatia and Slovenia. These were produced almost a century ago by Ilva in the Piombino blast furnaces. This is the VIII century of the fascist era. It is indicated by the brand bearing the year and date. Nowadays, trains almost no longer pass through this railway, but immigrants prefer it to the road because they can hide easily. In fact, the border passes over the rails. But here, as between Slovenia and Italy, there is no one to control. Along the edges of the line run barbed wire barriers erected by Ljubljana many years ago: But the gaps needed to bypass the steel knot are everywhere.

Places where there are no people on the Italian border

Along the route, human beings are not seen in December, except for the traces they leave without being picked up by anyone. Between Sveti Martin and Buzet I met three boys. The two are carrying a heavy-looking shopping bag. They are walking side by side. The third follows them. When you look at them, they don’t seem to come from the same land. Facial features are different. It is not even clear that they are refugees. They can be runners, friends. Or those who remain in Croatia “sell” the route to newcomers in order to raise more money to pay off debts incurred in their home country.

Starting from spring 2024, Rijeka will be connected to Trieste by train. Migrants who continue to travel on this route will no longer need to take a bus to Buzet and head towards the Julian capital. They will follow you directly to Opicina station with a second class ticket. While you wait for that day, just put one foot in front of the other along the railway to cross the borders separating Croatia from Italy. It is a pleasure to pass while walking along the Ilva trails or Karst paths. The immigrants know it, the police know it, everyone knows it.

Sign showing the border with Slovenia in Italy (photo by Giovanni Aiello-TriestePrima)

Continue reading Today.it’s research and insights
Beating of immigrants and drug-using children: Violence on the Balkan route

Source: Today IT