THE STRIKE OF THE GIBRALTAR – Rock disappears in the fog while Africa slowly appears in front of us. On our side, Jebel Musa machine, one of the two contenders for the southern pillar of Hercules. Jebel Musa is in Morocco, although it is not in Morocco that we are moving. It is, instead, of the Spanish enclave Ceuta, over which, poorly seen now, the Spanish and European flags shine impersonally.
Along with Melilla, another enclave several hundred kilometers to the east, this autonomous city, Spanish since 1668, remains the only part of the European soil on the African continent. As such, it becomes a migrant magnet, mainly from West Africa, arriving at its established border with Morocco with visions of Europe dancing in their heads.
As is the case elsewhere in Europe, such immigration becomes more and more disputed. After running on an anti-immigrant platform that resembles those of Donald Trump and various nativist groups in Europe, Spain's latest right-wing party, Vox, is expected to win a significant portion of the vote in the general election this weekend. Ceuta and Melilla got big in the campaign of the party. Surveys and the sufferings of the migrants themselves were surprisingly ignored.
Although undoubtedly less dangerous than the maritime route – the deadliest route through the Sahara and the devastating war against Libya on boats intended for Italy and Malta and at the bottom of the Mediterranean-Spain border with Africa, are not without risk. The Ceuta-Melilla route passes through Algeria and Morocco, where sub-Saharan Africans are appalled, and police brutality against them is uncontrollable, and attempts to destroy wire fences are frustrated, with great chances of success.
He, he said, is one of the lucky ones. The 18-year-old is in Ceuta for five months, but on the road for the past two years. He left his family in Côte d'Ivoire when he was 16 years old and walked nearly 5,000 miles north.
"Hundreds of us tried to come," he tells me when I ask about the border crossing. "Only some of us did it."
We are sitting outside the Centro de Instance Tempal de Immigrant (CETI), a refugee center for acceptance into the forested hills west of the city. Siebid shows me the scarlet scars that adorn my hands, a nasty reminder of his entry with the waistcoat.
"It was a very frightening experience," he says. "They did not want to bring us in. The Moroccans tried to prevent us and the Spaniards tried to stop us, but the Spanish police are not as bad as the Moroccan police." If we were captured there, we would be beaten and sent to the desert. I saw many people beaten up. " (Both the Moroccan and Algerian governments are accused of leaving migrants in the Sahara.)
Dressed in a camouflage shirt with a shirt and cargo pants, Sibide looks every bit at his young age, his thousand yards gazing at the only thing he can suggest through which he passes, after leaving home. "I talked to an advisor at the center," he says, "but sometimes I have nightmares."
While recognizing that he is an economic migrant, he left home to earn money for his mother and brothers and sisters – it is difficult to feel that, up to that point on his travels, he became a de facto asylum seeker.
It is estimated that 57,250 illegal migrants arrived in Spain from North Africa in 2018, the more they managed to do so over the past few years in combination. This represented almost half of all arrivals in the Mediterranean in Europe last year. Indeed, while the total number of arrivals has dropped from their peak of 2015-16, the Moroccan-Spanish route has risen in 2018, thus eclipsing the turning Libyan-Italian route, which continues to reflect the vast majority of deaths of migrants at sea .
I am reminded of Trump's "caravans" that penetrate through Mexico. I am reminded of the "crisis" of immigration in Australia, which has led to irrational fear of "people on board" and one of the most lucrative policies for asylum seekers in the world. In terms of pure figures, no crisis is compared.
The changing political dynamics of Europe greatly helps explain the boom in Spanish arrival. When Italy's right-wing government closed its ports in rescue charter flights last year, Spain's central left, led by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, proved ready to regain the looser. In June, Spain agreed to accept migrants on board the rescue boat Aquarius after being repatriated from Italy and Malta, while Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlassa openly voiced the desire to remove the waistcoat from the Ceuta and Melilla fences.
"Vox's leader, Santiago Abascal, channeled Trump, calling for an "insurmountable wall" along the boundaries of Ceuta and Melilla and claiming Morocco should pay for it."
In an interview with El Pais in August, E.U. Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos praised the government's "European spirit," at the same time issuing a warning against unlimited immigration. By accepting Aquarius, he said, "I think Spain reacted in a very positive way. But that can not go this way."
The majority of Ceuta's conservative leadership agrees, not quite without a good reason. Attempts to fence occur with increasing regularity – and, according to the Civil Police, they are also occurring with increasing violence. By the end of August, more than 100 migrants forced him to enter Ceuta by throwing acid batteries from the battery and lime with boiling in the police.
For its part, Vox's leader, Santiago Abascal, explicitly channel Trump, calling for "an unsurpassed wall" along the boundaries of Ceuta and Melilla and claiming that Morocco should pay for it. He also said the Spanish military should receive "necessary orders" to defend the borders.
On the Spanish side of the border, migrants who have managed to cross it face systemic bending under pressure. Originally designed to accommodate 500 people, Ceuta's Websites are currently believed to be home to nearly twice that number.
Even migrants themselves can feel that the Spanish government is stretched thin. Fahad Abdalah, 30, listening to my conversation with Sibid, gives a kind comment on the answers of the younger man. When Sibide says the situation in Cethi is better than nothing – better, anyway, from the situation in Morocco-Abdullah, originally from the Chambers, laughs and throws it out of hand.
"He's just polite," he says. "The food is terrible, there are not enough beds, we have 10 people in the room, it's a living hell."
Of course, Abdullah does not have to stay here. Migrants are not required to do so. But the center provides its residents with work, however menial and poorly paid, and those who have recently arrived in the enclave do not want anything more than to work.
Neither Sibid nor Abdullah have an idea when, or even yes, they will make it through the Strait of Gibraltar, but it remains a goal. Seuta may be technically European, but it's not Europe that she had in mind. They pay only a few euros a day, but both save for passage.
The question of money is the one that is preoccupied by Omar Bach (25). By origin from Sierra Leone, Bach is in Ceuta for more than four months – "three months and twenty-two days," he says – and works outside a supermarket in the city, helping people with their groceries even when they do not I need.
"I give enough money to buy food and cigarettes," he says. "I would never be able to afford a ferry. I needed nearly a month to save enough for a phone card." I had to call my mother. "
Bach, who wore a yellow vest and a scarf, writes "Dope", also went from West Africa to Spain, passing through Mali and Algeria, with the help of smugglers in the desert, he says – before arriving in Morocco, where who lived in the woods around Cebu Musa for just over a year. "We were alone there, but for God," he says. He considers himself a political fugitive, his father was killed during the civil war in Sierra Leone, which ended in 2002.
A group of Guardia Civil passes by, and Bach shakes his head. "The police is much better here," he says. "We have to hide all the time in Morocco, we were hiding in the forest as animals, because here we have a registration card, we can work. The police do not leave alone."
He hopes that he will eventually make it to the continent, where he says he would like to find a job as a mechanic or, ideally, as a musician. "Music is my passion," he says.
Our conversation is interrupted when a woman arrives from a supermarket.
Excuse me as he does, Bach goes to work. As he leaves, I ask him how he hopes to come "there." "It's not easy, man," he says. "It is not easy".
A week later, 385km, I found myself on the top of the ancient fortress Melilla, looking down the city's harbor with a group of young Algerians. It's midnight, and we are here to witness the night spectacle of young men who cross into their hands.
Here I am for journalistic reasons and they are here for practical reasons.
Kemel Musatyti, 19, is just carrying notes. "It's important to see how it works," he tells me. "You can arrest if you're not ready". Before attempting to save the ferry to Almeria, it means getting a sense of how it is done.
The demography is slightly different in this smaller enclave, with Algerians and other Arabs that contain a significant proportion of the migrant population. Many claim to be political refugees from Algeria's long-standing ruling party, the People's Liberation Front, across the border. Refugees from Syria, Palestine, Yemen and Lebanon are also represented, many of them legally applying for refugee status at the Office of Asylum and Shelter at the Border. (In contrast, Ceuta's OAO does not work.)
The border is an easy walk from the city center, Melilla is approaching its neighbor Morocco, Beni Anar, on the south side.
"The fence turned out to be ineffective in that it was ugly: my companions this evening, everyone here illegally, easily found themselves ahead."
I walked there morning from morbid curiosity. Surprisingly, the fence was a bad influence on the landscape, which scatters the scar across a devastating terrain to the west. Wastel scattered with broken bottles wrapped on both sides in his awakening.
Presumably, the fence proved to be ineffective in that it is ugly: my companions this evening, all here illegally, easily found themselves ahead. I can not imagine the Trump wall – or, in fact, the one that Abascal imagines for this part of the world – that misses the flow in any meaningful way. There is too much determination around him.
The show begins about one in the morning. Several young men, apparently for a walk late, are approaching the fence surrounding the harbor and, individually and in pairs, skilfully moving through the rolls of the razor wire at the top, dropping it to the other side. They continue to walk around as though nothing had happened, definitely uninvited in their movements and disappeared from view.
For a long time, nothing seems to have happened. The only movement below is from passengers arriving from the tape late in the afternoon on the fenced path over the port. Then, there is a flash of something from the direction of some shipping containers. Jamal Hosni (20) raises a striking finger in silence.
The bodies began to shoot between the pillars and containers, the timing of their hidden appearances and disappearances with those of the ever-expanding police. Their goal: the Baleària ferry, a 82 meter long passenger boat and, more precisely, the ropes that bind to landing.
None of us talks, how to do it, somehow can reduce the operation, alert the police to the presence of migrants.
It is a cruel irony – a bad joke of history and geography – that countries that have hardest hit the migration crisis should also be the ones that hardest hit the financial, countries where unemployment remains double-digit on a good day.
Europe of the fantasies of migrants is, for the most part, precisely this: illusion. A man thinks of the far-right aspect of the continent, of parties such as the Italian League and Alternative for Germany, who lie waiting to demonize and sacrifice; the hammer-taffeta they will finish rowing the Mayor Plaza and the Trevi Fountain; of the accommodation, 12 or more in a room, they can expect to be awarded in the making of land; of the migrants' schemes that are likely to be transferred to the outskirts of cities like Paris and Birmingham.
Someone knows – because no one is an idiot, but a liberal policy – that Europe can not take those figures indefinitely. Not for cultural or demographic reasons, as neo-Nazis and nativities quoted, but because the systems of these countries can not cope with the burden. About 1.8 million illegal migrants have arrived in Europe since 2014. The historical and moral responsibility of the continent as a beneficiary of colonialism is extremely important.
None of this is mentioned Musatyi and Hosni, who nervously smoke a Moroccan kif, because the play under us continues to unfold, and not just because it would be to break the magic of our silence.
For one thing, they already know, and want to try out luck in Europe anyway. "Something," Musaty will tell me later, "it would be better than going home." For others, it's hard not to be on their side. Tonight, at least the complexity of the situation, the pure logistic size of it, can currently be defended on the site in the interest of the people on the ground. We all want these men to succeed, to suddenly appear in the silhouette, mock the rope.
No one. There are too many police cars, their timing is too perfect. The Algerians are less disappointed than the determined ones: Musaty insists that they will improve tomorrow when they try to board the ship themselves. All that remains is to see how men escape from the harbor, which is now happening to me, it will be much harder than getting into it. But it's late, and we are tired, and we do not stick to see it.