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.
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.