The Inter Press Service’s Andrea Pettrachin took a look at the hostile Relationship of the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, surrounded by Morocco, towards migrants from Africa.
A few kilometres before the border between the Spanish enclave of Ceuta and Morocco, a sign informs passers-by that this outpost of Spain on African soil stands in a privileged position for those who wish to observe the annual migration of birds across the Strait of Gibraltar, their shortest route from Africa to Europe.
At the border itself, huge fences have been erected to block the daily attempts of human migrants seeking to escape hunger, despair and often conflict, a phenomenon that the people of Ceuta are less proud to advertise and about which they prefer silence.
That silence was dramatically broken at the beginning of May when a border control X-ray machine detected Abou, an eight-year-old boy from Cote d’Ivoire, inside a suitcase being carried into the Spanish enclave.
That was only the most recent of a number of (more or less ingenious) strategies used by migrants amassed in the Moroccan woods next to the Spanish border to try to enter the so-called ‘Fortress Europe’.
“What strikes the visitor most about Ceuta is its incredible contradictions. The city, with its population of just over 80,000 people living in 18.6 square kilometres and proudly Spanish since 1668, gives the idea of wanting to live as if the migrants and their attempts to reach the enclave do not exist”
Ceuta is one of the main (and few) ‘doors’ leading from northern Africa to the territory of the European Union, and is a ’door’ that has been closed since the end of the 1990s, when the Spanish authorities started to build two six-metre fences topped with barbed wire – complete with watch posts and a road running between them to accommodate police patrols in case of need – that surrounds the whole enclave (as in the other Spanish enclave in Africa of Melilla).
Even if they do not catch the attention of the media as in the case of Abou, every day Ceuta is the scene of young African migrants, almost all aged between 15 and 30, trying to reach Spanish territory in ways that are as, if not more, dangerous than the one chosen by Abou’s father.