Melilla: the Spanish enclave that has become the back-door to Europe

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These pictures were filmed on November 20th this year by Spanish police surveillance cameras.

They feature a chain of nearly a thousand migrants snaking, groping its way through the darkness heading, the migrants hope, for Europe.

These young men from sub-Saharan Africa are hiding out. Having all ready tried but failed to get over a border fence separating the Spanish enclave of Melilla from Morocco, they are waiting for another chance.

Without permission we interviewed them.

“There are plain-clothed police everywhere,” one of them warns.

They are edgy…but determined. They have crossed the Sahara from Mali, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Niger.

And they are not going to be put off by a few scars they bear from failed attempts to scale Melilla’s perimeter fence.

Some have been waiting in the hills here, surviving on local charity, for years.

Claude Guillaume Dibonde is from Cameroon, “It is not easy,” he says. “They arrest us when we try to climb the fence. They beat us as well. We live in misery. Misery! It is not easy for a human being to live like this. We have no choice, but to carry on. We can’t go back. We have left so many people in misery behind to search for a better a life. We have put all that behind us.”

Toure Lassin from the Ivory Coast says, “I have to take this risk. And if I don’t get in, I will stay here until I do. I’ll stay here until my hair turns white. I have to get in to Europe. It is the only thing that will change my life. Europe. Yes.”

Suddenly someone sees the police in the area and they up and leave.

We had only just finished our interviews and had planned to climb up to their camp up the hill, but with the police close by it was too risky for them to stay here.

A couple of minutes later and we come across a police patrol.

They arrested several migrants and with visible brutality.

Moroccan police seize camera equipment if you film them during an operation.

All we could get were some snatched shots from a mobile phone.

The tiny Spanish enclave of Melilla has an area of 12 square kilometres. It and its neighbour Ceuta are the only places where Europe and Africa share a land-border.

Hence the fence…seven metres high and in triplicate.

Largely paid for by the European taxpayer, it stretches over 10 kilometres.

It bristles with radar and cameras and there are plans to extend razor wire across its whole length. Even if you could climb up it, you are unlikely to make it over on your own.

In September this year hundred of migrants made an all out assault on the fence. A number made it over. Others were arrested and sent back to Morocco.

Around a hundred made it to Melilla’s temporary reception centre.

It holds around a thousand people. It was built for half that number.

Everyone who makes it into Melilla should, in theory, be sent to the reception centre by the Spanish police.

Sekou and several travelling with him got here on November 5th.

Sekou Traore from Guinea-Conakry told us about the tragedy of his friend. “You know the fence. It is high…well he got some way up it and then he fell. He died at the bottom. When we came here there were more than 320 people on the fence. 120 got through, then the Spanish police came and expelled more than 30.”

Hilaire Fomezou from Cameroon spent two years living on the mountain, “I know what it is to suffer. I ate anything, sifting through bins to find food. It hurts me to think about it. When I think of my friends who are still there I thank God that I am here. I am very well treated here. And I promise that I will fight for my friends and family. I’ll do whatever I can, whatever it takes, I am going to secure my future and my children’s future. I will do it.”

Another migrant from Mali said, “I came from Mali to escape the war. Both my parents are dead. I have a little sister left, but my brother, he was killed in the massacres. I have already lost so much, I am not scared of dying. I am not scared of dying to get to Europe.”

Among those who don’t make it over the fence, some take their chances at the Beni-Ensar crossing between Morocco and Melilla.

Authorities use listening devices to detect the heart-beats of people hiding in vehicles.

People go to incredible lengths to get across. The authorities showed us video of a man being extricated after hiding in a car bumper.

Spain’s representative in Melilla, Abdelmalik El Barkani says that Europe should better coordinate its immigration policy.

“I would like Europe to get more involved in this,” he says, “This is not just a border between Morocco and Spain, but between Africa and Europe. It is also important that we cooperate more with the countries where migrants are coming from. Above all we have fight the people traffickers.

The best known human rights activist in Melilla, José Palazón is president of the organisation Prodein. He believes we need to radically rethink this issue.

“I think Europe’s immigration policy is a disaster,” he says. “It serves no pur

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