The Wall of Europe

by Sergi Cámara


IN NORTHERN Morocco there are two coastal cities cut-off from the rest of the African continent. Melilla and Ceuta are autonomous Spanish ports—European exclaves—and for scores of African migrants they represent a gateway to Europe. Migrants routinely attempt to scale the walls that surround each city, but the dangerous climb is just one of many obstacles they must pass if they are to be successful. Death and injury are common in this scramble to reach Europe by any means necessary.

Young migrants from Ivory Coast beg for clemency from the police who have just illegally deported them back to Morocco. EU law bars summary deportations and requires members to allow anyone who steps foot on their territory to apply for political asylum.

Twelve kilometers of wall separates Africa from Europe in Melilla, Spain. The barricade consists of three separate fences, each 6-meters high, with a road running down the middle. Armed police are stationed along both sides 24 hours a day, where motion sensors and thermal cameras are also deployed to further deter would-be immigrants.

But it's not enough to stop young Africans from trying to jump the border.

I began this work in 2004, as a personal project reporting on the conditions of immigrants living at the gates of Europe. In these places allegations of human rights abuses and police killings are rampant, as are illegal deportations of immigrants back into Africa. European Union laws requiring member states to allow anyone who steps foot on their territory the chance to apply for political asylum are routinely ignored.

And violence comes from both sides of the border: some migrants are killed in Moroccan police raids before they can even enter Melilla, other are injured by Spanish forces when they are attacked attempting to hop the fences. A serous grievance is the “express” deportation of immigrants who are returned to Morocco even after they have reached Spanish territory, an action banned by the EU. Melilla is a surreal world—separated as it is from the European continent—where the Spanish government has always had difficulty keeping order.

With this work I intend to expose the human rights abuses taking place at the Moroccan border with Europe. The beatings, the deaths, injuries and rapes of Africans from across the continent, and the predicament of migrants living in hiding in the hills outside Melilla. There they perch on Mount Gurugú, looking and waiting for the right moment to infiltrate the border, the city, and Europe.

A group of migrants watch the flickering lights of the Spanish port city of Melilla from their perch atop Mount Gurugú, a last resting point before they attempt to scale the city’s walls in search of a passage to Europe.

A young migrant comes out of hiding on Mount Gurugú, fearful of the police raids that regularly visit their encampments on the outskirts of the Spanish city of Melilla. Hundreds of hopeful migrants from across Africa congregate in the mountains outside Melilla, their final stop before descending on the city and the walls that stand between themselves and Europe.

An injured migrant, beaten by Moroccan police, hides out on Mount Gurugú before making his way into Europe.

A child migrant from Cameroon hides in the Gurugú Mountains while he waits to jump the border fence into the Spanish port city of Melilla.

A group of immigrants plan their path over the barricades that separate Africa from the European exclave of Melilla.

African immigrants hoping to avoid immediate deportation struggle with police after jumping the border fence from Morocco. EU law bars its states from implementing the immediate deportation of immigrants, allowing anyone who steps foot on European Union territory the chance to apply for political asylum.

An injured immigrant beaten unconscious in a struggle with the Spanish police in Melilla.

Attempting to avoid deportation back to Morocco, a recent immigrant hides from Spanish police under a vehicle. European Union law bars summary deportations and requires members to allow anyone who steps foot on their territory to apply for political asylum.

An immigrant asks for water after spending several hours atop a lamppost on the Spanish side of the barricade. He was hoping to avoid “express” deportation back to Morocco, which is banned under European Union law. EU member states must allow anyone who steps foot on their territory the chance to apply for political asylum.

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