Saving Refugees in the French Alps | All media content | DW | 10.04.2018
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Saving Refugees in the French Alps

Philippe Zanetti helps refugees who risk their lives trying to cross Alpine passes in the middle of winter. Even though the law forbids it, the inhabitants of the mountain villages are always on the lookout for people in need of help.

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Nevertheless, the refugees always find a way to cros, no matter how many transit routes are closed, no matter how hermetically European governments try to seal off the borders. Out of sheer desperation, people from Africa or the Middle East try crossing the Alps between Italy and France even in winter. In Névache in the Hautes-Alpes Department of France, the 250 villagers decided to help the refugees, even if it’s against the law. Philippe Zanetti is 52 and says: "I might not be responsible for what the governments decide. But I can try to make the best of what is going on here”. He feels it is his responsibility to help others. It all started when two young refugees from Mali tried crossing the Col de l'Échelle pass, 1,800 meters above sea level, in the dead of winter. Both of them suffered severe frostbite, one lost his feet, the other his hands. Since then, villagers in the area continuously search for more refugees lost in the snow. "It feels like no matter what we do, there’s no end to it”, says Philippe Zanetti. "They keep coming day after day. They’re here. What can we do?”