Migrants Dangerously Try To Leave Italy Through The Alps

From Africa to the Alps

With much of the French-Italian border sealed, migrants take a dangerous path to a better life.

Over the last few years, African migrants making their way from Libya to Italy on crowded, barely sea-worthy boats have been the subject of heartbreaking news coverage. Some of these migrants — in particular those from French-speaking countries — hope to eventually end up in France, where their job prospect are better. But because of border closures and patrols, many attempt to cross the border from Italy by way of a less expected route: through the snow-covered Alps.

Desperate but Under-Dressed Piero Cruiciatti/AFP/Getty Images Desperate but Under-Dressed Many of these migrants are seeing snow for the first time and, like this man from Ivory Coast, where February temperatures can reach the low 90s, they are poorly equipped for extreme cold. While temperatures along this mile-high mountain pass often fall below freezing, the border here isn't patrolled during the harshest months of winter, presenting the migrants with what they see as a rare opportunity. Along the Snowy Path Antonio Masiello/Getty Images Along the Snowy Path The trek typically starts at Bardonecchia, a small Italian ski town only a few miles from the French border. But while short, the trip is extremely perilous: Only a small number of migrants are able to reach their destination. The rest are either turned back by the unendurable cold or rescued after losing their way in the mountains. Bound for the Border Piero Cruiciatti/AFP/Getty Images Bound for the Border Here, men from Mali and Burkina Faso catch their breath on their way to the Colle della Scala, the mountain pass connecting Italy and France. No GPS Piero Cruiciatti/AFP/Getty Images No GPS A man from Ivory Coast studies signs to find the Colle della Scala pass. Without Gloves Piero Cruiciatti/AFP/Getty Images Without Gloves The risks: avalanches, getting lost, frostbite. Here, a man shows his swollen hands due to exposure to low temperatures. In the Station Antonio Masiello/Getty Images In the Station While trains run regularly between Bardonecchia and France, they're heavily patrolled by border police. Even so, Bardonecchia's train station, pictured here, has become a hub for migrants in transit — either there to rest up before a journey, or to collect themselves after a failed attempt. A Little Warmth Simone Padovani/Awakening/Getty Images A Little Warmth Exhausted migrants curl up by the heater in the Bardonecchia railway station. The Journey Continues Piero Cruiciatti/AFP/Getty Images The Journey Continues Despite the hazards and hardships, the migrants, who have already come so far, are unlikely to turn back. When morning comes, it is time to embark for a new life. France beckons.