Spain's Southern Fortress: The African Enclave of Melilla

Collection with 15 media items created by tclava

15 Jun 2014 22:00

TEXTLESS and SUBTITLED VIDEO AVAILABLE

By: Tomaso Clavarino

Mamadou sits on a rock, his eyes turned towards the sea, the hood on his head to protect him from the wind: here on mount Gurugu, the wind blows all day long. He is seventeen years old and comes from Mali, and since two months ago he has been one of about four-thousand inhabitants of what is a veritable tent city on the slopes of an impervious mountain, exposed to every kind of hardship. They survive with tents made of plastic bags and branches, blankets retrieved from garbage cans, small bonfires to keep warm, and nothing more. There’s no water on Gurugu.

Fleeing from war, poverty, violence and starvation, Mamadou had crossed Mauritania and Algeria before reaching this mountain that stands behind the Moroccan city of Nador and overlooking the Spanish enclave of Melilla, Europe’s back door into Africa. This is a real village nestled among the trees and clouds, a sea of makeshift tents, packed with migrants from nearly every corner of Sub Saharan Africa. There are Malians, Senegalese, Nigerians, Cameroonians, Liberians, Ghanaians, and all have arrived on Gurugu with a single goal: to jump the wall that divides Morocco from Melilla.

The wall is a triple barrier, 12 kilometers long and controlled by dozens of cameras. It is constantly patrolled both by the Moroccan police and the Spanish Guardia Civil, a seemingly impregnable fortress, but not for these people, on the run from a harsh life and dreaming of a better future. Three or four times a week migrants living on Gurugu descend the mountain in waves, trying to climb over the fence to reach Europe. Those who make it end up at the CETI (Centro de Estancia Temporal de Inmigrantes), a first aid center on the verge of exploding with over two thousand people, crammed into a space conceived for four hundred and eighty, waiting to know their fate, while the others are hunted down by the Guardia Civil and returned immediately to Morocco where they are left in the hands of the Moroccan soldiers.

Returning these men to Morocco is “a clear violation of international law” according to José Palazon, an activist from Melilla. “[This] exposes migrants to violence in a country that doesn’t respect human rights,” he says. “Whenever there is an attempt to jump the wall hundreds of migrants are injured, not by the iron fences, but from the gunbarrels of the Moroccan police.”

Indeed the Moroccan police are one of the biggest fears of the migrants: both for those dwelling on Gurugu, and for countless others hiding in the forests and in the suburbs of Moroccan cities, all waiting to reach Europe. According to one estimate, there are around eighty-thousand sub-Saharan migrants in Morocco.

“Almost every day at dawn the Moroccan soldiers leave their base at the foot of Gurugu, come to our camp and destroy everything,” says Idriss, who can barely walk after being severely beaten. “They pull down the tents, set fire to them, throw away the food, steal the little money we have, our phones. If they can catch anyone, they arrest him and beat him, and then take him to Rabat. We fall over the cliffs, many of us fracture arms and legs, we are hurt and we have no medicine to treat us. Over the years we have stopped counting the dead.”

Mamadou bears the signs of his last beating on his left forearm, a large wound that has recently healed.

Only three or four girls have the courage to live on the mountain instead of joining the women and children hidden in the woods near Selouane, at the foot of the other side of the mountain. There, they wait to board small boats to reach Melilla’s beach. Not all migrants try to enter Melilla by jumping the wall. Those who do so are the most desperate, the ones who have spent all the money they had for the trip, money that was stolen by the police, by the mafias that here control the smuggling of migrants. Those who can afford to try to pass by sea, or by buying false passports. Others pay two thousand euros for a car ride. Not in the passenger seat, but In the false bottom of a car, near the engine, near the exhaust pipe.

“A huge risk,” Juan Antonio Martin Rivera, a lieutenant of the Guardia Civil, says. “These people remain without air and in a high temperature for hours. As far as we know, it is only here that migrants are trying to cross the border in this way.”

All these migrants have a dream: Europe. A Europe which, however, doesn’t want them, and turns a blind eye to the – both Moroccan and Spanish – violence as many NGOs point out. It was only two months ago that the Civil Guard, under pressure from NGOs, local associations and the press, decided to abandon the rubber bullets that over the years have seriously injured hundreds of migrants.

According to Abdelmalik El Barkawi, delegate of the Spanish Government in Melilla, “the enclave is facing an unprecedented migratory pressure” and perhaps this is why the Government of Mariano Rajoy has said nothing about the new barrier that the Moroccan government has begun building around Melilla. According to Spanish newspapers, the dug-out barbed-wire-filled trench has been financed with part of the fifty-million euros that Spain requested from the EU in order to strengthen its borders.

“These reports were first confirmed and then denied by the government in Madrid,” said Father Esteban Velazquez, a Jesuit priest who is among the few to provide assistance to migrants on the Moroccan side.

Left to themselves, trapped at the gates of Europe, and helpless victims of ongoing violence, sub-Saharan migrants who do finally make it to Spain are deported illegally, according to Tereza Vazquez Del Rey, a lawyer at CEAR, the Spanish Commission for Aid to Refugees.
“When a migrant is able to pass the first barrier, he is formally in Spanish territory and therefore can’t be brought back to Morocco,” she said. “He has the right to have a lawyer and a translator. He can apply for asylum and can’t be deported to a country where his life is endangered.”

A hundred kilometers from Nador and Melilla is the city of Oujda, a transit area for many migrants on the Algerian border. Here, life for sub-Saharan Africans appears to have improved since September 2013 when the Moroccan government decided to move migrants arrested in Nador to Rabat, rather than to Oujda.

“Previously violence by the police used to be [a daily occurrence]” said Abdullah, a 35 year-old from Burkina Faso. “Many people are starting to realize, after several failed attempts, that going to Europe is really too dangerous, and that it is not worth risking your life. So a hundred of us have applied for a residence permit in Morocco. We want to try to live and work here.”

The majority of the migrants in Oujda live at the FAC, a small sort of camp made up of tents set up in the Mohamed I University. They are helped by the students and the climate is quite calm. However journalists are not welcome here, as there the Nigerian mafia that controls the smuggling of migrants and women has a strong presence in the camp.

So why is the situation for migrants so different between Oujda and Nador?

Father Esteban Velazquez has no doubt: “Because in Nador, and in nearby Beni Ensar, there is the frontier, and the Spanish government has delegated the role of the sheriff to the Moroccan police,” he said.

Violence, mafia, arrests, nothing seems to be able to blunt the will power of these people, of these migrants who have spent five years of their lives hiding in Morocco and trying to pass the wall of Melilla.

“A friend of mine, Moussa, was here on Gurugu for five years, and has tried sixty-seven times to jump over the wall,” Ibrahim said while playing cards in a tent used as a casino on the slopes of Gurugu. “The sixty-eighth he made it. They can treat us like animals, beat us, steal everything from us, hurt us, even kill us, but they don’t know what we are running away from, and they don’t know how strong our desire is to reach Europe. Everyone here dreams of having a pair of wings, but if God wills it, sooner or later, even without them, we will make it.”

Melilla Nador Migrants Europe Africa War Refugees Fortress Immigration Spain Morocco Illegal Immi... Illegal Wall Border Fence José Palazon Tereza Vazqu... Police Violence Nigerian Mafia Smuggling Esteban Vela...

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Spain's Southern Fortress: The Africa...
Melilla
By tclava
10 Jun 2014

A TEXTLESS NATURAL SOUND REPORT WITH MUSIC TRACK
VERSION WITHOUT MUSIC AVAILABLE HERE: https://transterramedia.com/media/53588

Surrounded by a triple barrier 12 km long, controlled by dozens of cameras and continuous patrols, a small Spanish enclave in Moroccan territory called Melilla is – according to the Spanish government – a fortress under siege. It is a fortress which in recent years has faced increasing migratory pressure that has reached “unprecedented levels” according to Abdelmalik El Barkani, Madrid’s representative in Melilla.

Hiding in the forests of Oujda, Nador, and Selouane, nearly eighty-thousand migrants, mainly from sub-Saharan countries, are waiting for the right moment to slip across the frontier. Some go by boat or in a secret compartment of a car if they can afford it, but the majority try to jump the barriers surrounding Melilla. Spain and Europe stand silently by while every week hundreds of migrants risk their lives and allegedly face violent reprisals of the Moroccan police who they say beat, torture, rob and kill them. Meanwhile, Morocco is building a new barrier, a three meter deep ditch filled with barbed wire. Part of the 50 million euro project is reportedly funded by money Spain acquired from the EU, an accusation made by Spanish activists and media and never denied by Rajoy’s government.

A few kilometres from these barriers, on the slopes of mount Gurugu, in the forests overlooking Melilla, nearly four thousand migrants are waiting for the right time to jump across into the Spanish enclave and enter the CETI (Centro de Estancia Temporal de Inmigrantes), a collapsing first aid structure with two thousand people already inside. Gurugu seems a circle of Hell, where migrants live in inhuman conditions. In tents made of plastic bags, without water and food, heated only by firewood collected in the bush. Sought out by the Moroccan military, they have to hide like animals in the forest, digging in the garbage to find something to eat, walking miles on slippery rocks to drink. Systematically, every two days or so, at six in the morning, the soldiers break into Gurugu, destroying tents, burning, stealing what little the migrants were able to put aside, beating them and forcing people to jump down from the crags, arresting and bringing the detainees to Rabat.

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Southern Fortress: Melilla 01
Melilla
By tclava
10 Jun 2014

Migrants playing football on Melilla's beach after they succeeded in jumping the security fence separating the Spanish enclave from Morocco.

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Melilla
By tclava
03 Jun 2014

Guardia Civil's control room in Melilla. Spain controls Melilla's wall with high-tech surveillance cameras.

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Melilla
By tclava
02 Jun 2014

The view from Mount Gurugu, in Nador, Morocco, where thousands of sub-Saharan migrants live in makeshift tents, often chased away by Moroccan authorities while they wait for the right moment to jump the wall into Spanish territory.

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Southern Fortress: Melilla 04
Melilla
By tclava
06 Jun 2014

In the migrant's camp on Mount Gurugu, tents are made with plastic sheeting, and any other materials the migrants can find. Winters in this region of Morocco can be brutal, and survival in the forest is a constant struggle.

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Southern Fortress: Melilla 05
Melilla
By tclava
05 Jun 2014

A sub-Saharan migrant on Mount Gurugu, near Melilla, waits in the forest for the right moment to try to enter Spanish territory.

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Southern Fortress: Melilla 06
Melilla
By tclava
08 Jun 2014

Migrants play card on the sand inside the Spanish enclave of Melilla. Once inside they are often sent back to Morocco within days.

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Southern Fortress: Melilla 07
Melilla
By tclava
04 Jun 2014

Melilla's wall at night. The triple barrier dividing Spain from Morocco is 12 kilometers long, and is under high surveillance by Spanish authorities.

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Southern Fortress: Melilla 08
Melilla
By tclava
08 Jun 2014

A migrant waiting on Mount Gurugu to try to enter European territory stays warm with a glass of hot tea.

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Southern Fortress: Melilla 09
Melilla
By tclava
05 Jun 2014

A group of migrant men from the Ivory Coast build a fire to stay warm. During winter, Mount Gurugu where they have set up a temporary camp can see freezing temperatures.

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Southern Fortress: Melilla 10
Melilla
By tclava
11 Jun 2014

Migrants rest in makeshift tents in the forests overlooking the Spanish enclave of Melilla, where they wish to seek a better life in Europe.

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Title photo for the collection
Southern Fortress: Melilla 11
Melilla
By tclava
12 Jun 2014

A night view of the wall surrounding Melilla near Beni Ensar, Morocco.

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Southern Fortress: Melilla 12
Melilla
By tclava
13 Jun 2014

Mamadou, a migrant living on Mount Gurugu shows scars from wounds he says were inflicted on him by Moroccan police during a raid of the camp.

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Southern Fortress: Melilla 13
Melilla
By tclava
09 Jun 2014

A migrant poses for a photo inside Melilla near CETI (Centro de Estancia Temporal por Inmigrantes), a center dedicated to helping immigrants.

Frame 0004
Spain's Southern Fortress: The Africa...
Melilla
By tclava
03 Jan 2015

A TEXTLESS NATURAL SOUND REPORT
VERSION WITH MUSIC TRACK AVAILABLE HERE: https://transterramedia.com/media/53117

Surrounded by a triple barrier 12 km long, controlled by dozens of cameras and continuous patrols, a small Spanish enclave in Moroccan territory called Melilla is – according to the Spanish government – a fortress under siege. It is a fortress which in recent years has faced increasing migratory pressure that has reached “unprecedented levels” according to Abdelmalik El Barkani, Madrid’s representative in Melilla.

Hiding in the forests of Oujda, Nador, and Selouane, nearly eighty-thousand migrants, mainly from sub-Saharan countries, are waiting for the right moment to slip across the frontier. Some go by boat or in a secret compartment of a car if they can afford it, but the majority try to jump the barriers surrounding Melilla. Spain and Europe stand silently by while every week hundreds of migrants risk their lives and allegedly face violent reprisals of the Moroccan police who they say beat, torture, rob and kill them. Meanwhile, Morocco is building a new barrier, a three meter deep ditch filled with barbed wire. Part of the 50 million euro project is reportedly funded by money Spain acquired from the EU, an accusation made by Spanish activists and media and never denied by Rajoy’s government.

A few kilometres from these barriers, on the slopes of mount Gurugu, in the forests overlooking Melilla, nearly four thousand migrants are waiting for the right time to jump across into the Spanish enclave and enter the CETI (Centro de Estancia Temporal de Inmigrantes), a collapsing first aid structure with two thousand people already inside. Gurugu seems a circle of Hell, where migrants live in inhuman conditions. In tents made of plastic bags, without water and food, heated only by firewood collected in the bush. Sought out by the Moroccan military, they have to hide like animals in the forest, digging in the garbage to find something to eat, walking miles on slippery rocks to drink. Systematically, every two days or so, at six in the morning, the soldiers break into Gurugu, destroying tents, burning, stealing what little the migrants were able to put aside, beating them and forcing people to jump down from the crags, arresting and bringing the detainees to Rabat.