Journey to the Promised Land

Samuel Aranda

2013 saw an upsurge in the number of African immigrants trying to make their way into Europe over the border fences that ring Spain's African exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.~~Despite frequent media reports about immigrants drowning at sea, being abandoned by traffickers who take their money or being deported from Europe the columns of hopefuls seeking a better life and work seem to keep on arriving at Europe's borders. European countries with the most obvious entry routes such as Greece, where long border with Turkey offers precarious entry from the East, and Italy, whose Mediterranean islands offer a maritime route from the South, have been pouring ever more resources into their border security to make the point that illegal entry is being taken seriously. Spain's predicament is unusual in that it holds two exclaves - Ceuta and Melilla - on Morocco's north coast making it the only European country with a land border on the African continent.~

Thought it has spent millions of Euros building a 6.5 metre high fence around the two cities, hundreds of immigrants continue to try and scale the barriers or swim around them, sometimes leading to altercations with Spanish border guards who feel overwhelmed by the task of stemming the flow.~~With shelters for those who make it over the border full to capacity the Spanish government has asked the European Union to shoulder some of the responsibility for defending this particularly strained frontier. Military vehicles now patrol the perimeter fence and helicopters monitor the situation from the air. Spain is also considering changes to its immigration law to make it easier to forcibly remove immigrants immediately after their arrival on Spanish soil. ~~The need to limit the number of those who make it through is linked to the fact that once inside the Spanish exclaves, immigrants' cases will be reviewed before most of them are transferred to the mainland to make way for newer arrivals. Since Spain doesn't have the required treaties with the countries of origin of many of the immigrants, many of whom destroy their papers before they attempt their journey, few are deported back and are left to fend for themselves somewhere in the EU.~~Despite a fall in the number of attempts by immigrants to overcome Melilla's fences over the past decade the arrivals have started to increase again recently, with 4,235 immigrants arriving overland in 2013 compared to 2,841 in 2012. The reasons for the increase are unclear, though some suggest that Spain's economic crisis has led to cuts in funding of Moroccan border security efforts. ~~Another recent development has been the arrival of large numbers of Syrians, fleeing the vicious civil war in their country, some of whom have wandered for up to two years to find an entry point into Europe. Looking more similar to local Moroccans and often middle class, many have been able to buy passports allowing them free entry along with thousands of Moroccan day labourers.~~The stories of woe told by immigrants are as numerous as they are perilous. Many are abused by the Moroccan police who search them out in woods and on hills surrounding Melilla where some immigrants camp out in the open for months on end, waiting for an opportunity to make the dash across the border with a group of equally desperate travellers. For many, Melilla is their once in a lifetime opportunity, having spent up to 2 years on the road and the entire family's savings to get this far. Samuel Aranda spent time with groups of immigrants waiting for the big moment when they would attempt their daring venture.

 

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      SPAIN

      A road that runs beside the border fence separating...

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      A Spanish police vehicle drives beside the border...

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      Spain

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      Spain

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      MOROCCO

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      Spain

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      MOROCCO

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      Musa Bankura, 36 , from Gabon at a camp in the Gurugu...

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      Tahar Mohe, 22 , from Cameroon at a camp in the...

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      Mamadu Ibraih, 25 , from Cameroon at a camp in the...

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      A migrant from Sub-Saharan Africa with a dog he has...

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