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Ceuta and Melilla

For a long time the main news about immigration in Spain focused on the boatloads of Africans attempting to reach the shores of southern Spain. Lately, however, a new phenomenon hit the headlines: immigrants storming the borders between Morocco and the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla massively. A tripartite rebordering process shaped the contemporary geography of these peculiar segments of the land border between the EU/Spain and Morocco since Spain joined the European Union in 1986.

Most of the refugees arriving in Melilla, a Spanish exclave in Northern Africa, are Syrians, Yemenis and Algerians. But no blacks apply for asylum at the border. In November 2014, Spain announced the opening of two Offices of Asylum and Refuge (OAR), one in each of its two autonomous cities in Northern Africa: Ceuta and Melilla. They were up and running before the end of the year, but the results weren't as expected. In Ceuta, the office is closed and unused. In Melilla, only Arabs and North Africans can access it. An asylum seeker coming from the Moroccan side would have to clear the border controlled by the North African country's police before having a chance to apply for asylum in Spain. But Moroccans don't let black people through.

Since the beginning of 2018, 3,125 migrants crossed the Spanish border through the enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta, according to the International Organization for Migration, not including those who crossed the seven-meter high fence separating Morocco from Spain on 26 July 2018. On that day more than 800 migrants attempted to cross the border between Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Ceuta through a high fence; while 602 of them succeeded, 15 law enforcement officers were injured in the clashes. The migrant threw stones, sticks, Molotov cocktails, feces and hashish at law enforcement representatives and used sprays as flamethrowers. The migrants tried to cut the barbed wire on the fence with scissors and hammers.

The boundaries between the enclaves of Ceuta (19.4 km2) and Melilla (13.4 km2) and their hinterlands form short Spanish-Moroccan land borders in the Maghreb. The Europeanization of the border in 1986 was followed by its ‘‘Schengenization’’ in 1991. When Spain joined the Schengen Agreement in 1991, its visa regime adjusted to the new situation. The strengthening of border controls began, and the rules of the game changed. From then on, Moroccan citizens were not allowed to cross the new Spanish/Schengen-Moroccan border without a visa, with the exception of citizens from the Moroccan provinces of Tetouan and Nador.

The Spanish-Moroccan maritime border was sealed electronically by the SIVE (Integrated System of External Surveillance), which allowed the monitoring of illegal immigration towards the Iberian Peninsula and the Canary Islands. The SIVE gradually implemented fixed and mobile radars, first along the coasts of Andalusia in 2002, and later around the Canary Islands in 2005.

On the land side, the most notable event occurred in 1995, when the fencing of the enclave’s perimeters started. The perimeter of these two cities was physically reshaped through the building of a twin metal fence (now triple in the case of Melilla), from 3.5 to 6 meters high, equipped withhigh-tech surveillance systems, such as thermal and infrared cameras, and less sophisticated elements, like pepper sprays and barbed wire. Spanish PM, Zapartero announced a third parameter fence as the present two are proving insufficient to stop people climbing over despite the dangers. This 3rd parameter fence will be "equipped with state-of-the-art infrared cameras, sensor pads and sound detectors" and be able to detect potential jumpers from a distance and prevent them from "swarming" over the fences.

Moroccan citizens registered in the provinces of Tetouan and Nador are allowed to enter the enclaves by showing their passports indicating residence. After Schengen, internal Moroccan migration towards these provinces increased, as did the price of "Schengenized" Moroccan passports in the black market. There is a daily cross-border flow of approximately 20,000 people in each of the enclaves.

The barbed-wire fences that divide Spanish and Moroccan territories have not put off would-be illegal migrants to continental Europe from all over the African continent. Hundreds or even thousands of sub-Saharan Africans camp out in the woods near the border. They choose their place and moment carefully according to the position of the Spanish and Moroccan guards, and use their handmade ladders to scale the fences always after dark. If several hundreds attempt to get across, at least a few are bound to succeed.

“These men and women can go nowhere else because they have nothing to eat; they have no job and many have10no family left. That’s why they are going to try it again and again,” says the president of a non-profit organization that tries to provide aid for these immigrants. Meanwhile, the centers that run as temporary shelters for homeless immigrants are more than overflowing.

The Cities Without Borders campaign is " ... located in this context as an experimentation with new forms of public enunciation and intervention which can allow the expression, from the standpoint of a broad alliance of local and migrant citizens, the unbrearability of the current migration policies in the context of the crisis. ... one of the priorities in the practices of current social movements in Spain: the understanding, awareness and reporting of the governing devices of migration movements organized around the notion of border regime. As is well known, the current context of systemic crisis is generating an intensification of the mechanisms of attachment and productive control of migrants, manifest in many forms, which drives the latter into areas of darkness as far as basic rights and minimum standards of dignity for the reproduction of life are concerned. ... By border regime we understand a complex set of mechanisms of security regulation of immigration in all its aspects, both explicit (the fences in Ceuta and Melilla, the Frontex system, the Detention Centers), and the most imperceptible internal borders which cross our cities (checkpoints and ID controls, administrative barriers, differential inclusion policies of immigrants in the rights system, etc.).... CWB seeks a conflict between formal legislation and its material application in our territories, and the inclusion of increasingly more people who, in the face of the extreme injustice of the law, are willing to be creatively disobedient, and to create the conditions for greater levels of freedom and dignity in the lives of migrants."

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Page last modified: 27-10-2018 18:28:11 ZULU