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MIGRATION-SPAIN: Scaling the Fences

Alicia Fraerman

MADRID, Sep 27 2005 (IPS) - Some 100 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa made it Tuesday over the high fences separating Morocco from the Spanish enclave of Melilla on the southern coast of the Mediterranean sea, while another 400 were kept out by the Civil Guard.

Some 100 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa made it Tuesday over the high fences separating Morocco from the Spanish enclave of Melilla on the southern coast of the Mediterranean sea, while another 400 were kept out by the Civil Guard.

The storming of the border occurred just a few hours before the media in Spain aired a video filmed by the children’s rights organisation PRODEIN, which shows Civil Guard agents in riot gear violently repelling a similar concerted attempt by migrants on Sept. 20.

The video also shows that undocumented migrants who made it into Spanish territory were immediately – and illegally – sent back to Morocco, through gates that do not even formally exist.

These deportations violate Spain’s law on aliens, which states that any undocumented immigrant who sets foot on Spanish soil must be immediately taken to a police station for identification – a stipulation that was ignored on Sept. 20, as is clearly demonstrated by the video footage.

Catholic priest Angel García, the head of Peace Messengers, a non-governmental organisation that is active on every continent, told IPS that the fences should be eliminated.


He argued that they provide no solution, but have on the contrary aggravated the situation and endangered the lives of immigrants attempting to enter Spain in search of a better life for themselves and their families back home.

“It is incredible that after the collapse of the Berlin Wall (in 1989), more walls of shame are being built now,” he protested.

The priest, who is better known as Padre Angel, said that a few weeks ago he was in the city of Melilla and that he was appalled to see the “immoral fence, which is extremely costly to build and to maintain, when there are other pressing needs to address.”

In Padre Angel’s view, there are two essential questions that must be tackled in order to put an end to the constant attempts by migrants to make it into Spain, which so frequently end in injuries or deaths.

On one hand, he said, the governments of Spain and Morocco should hold talks and reach agreements to regularise the inflow of immigrants, whether Moroccans or other Africans who go to Spain from that North African country.

And on the other, he added, there is a need to make a real effort to foment development in poor countries of the South, by contributing substantial development aid funds and opening up the markets of the industrialised North to their products.

“If that is done in a serious manner, there won’t be any more desperate people risking their lives trying to make it into Spain to find work in order to send a little money to their families,” said the priest.

Undocumented migrants attempt to make it into Melilla and Ceuta – Spain’s other small enclave in North Africa – by different means: scaling the fence, swimming from a Moroccan beach to a Spanish one, or along the cliffs.

Many of those who try to climb in along the cliffs fall in the sea and drown, as it is impossible to climb out of the water there.

The city of Melilla, to which Morocco lays claim, is completely surrounded by a double wire fence topped by barbed wire that ranges in height between three and five metres and is equipped with watch-posts, security video cameras and fibre-optic sensors that are run by the Civil Guard militarised police.

The Civil Guard reported Tuesday that the immigrants began to storm the fence in two far apart areas, using at least 270 makeshift ladders made of tree branches to get across the first fence, which is five metres away from the second.

Once two or three of them made it up the first fence, they hauled the ladder across and threw it to the ground, jumped, and ran to the second fence to attempt to scale it.

The strategy in these bids is to move quickly, before the alarm is sounded and the Civil Guard can make it down the corridor between the two fences.

On Tuesday, the Civil Guard justified the use of riot gear – rubber bullets, batons, tear gas and hoses – saying the migrants refused to go back over the fence and continued to attempt to get into Melilla, ignoring the presence of the guards.

The law on aliens stipulates that illegal migrants who are seized in Spain must be taken to the nearest police station and held there until they are informed that they are being deported to their country of origin.

But immigrants from countries of sub-Saharan Africa with which Spain has no readmission agreement must be taken to reception centres, which they are free to leave.

Most of them do so shortly afterwards and head to other parts of Spain or other countries in the European Union in search of work.

Spain’s secretary of state for migration, Consuelo Rumi, said Tuesday that major progress has been made with Morocco in stemming the inflow of migrants.

She said the evidence is that so far this year, the number of migrants who have reached Spain in precarious boats that make the risky journeys across the Strait of Gibraltar or to Spain’s Canary Islands is 37 percent down from the same period last year.

She also noted that all of the Moroccan immigrants who are captured in their attempt to enter Spain in this fashion, or who are riding in boats owned by a Moroccan, “are deported in less than 48 hours.”

But the pressure is still being felt. A boat carrying more than 70 would-be immigrants was intercepted Tuesday in the southern Spanish province of Granada, on the northern shore of the Mediterranean.

A second vessel was detected by the Civil Guard and allowed to land because of the choppy seas, after which its 24 occupants were detained.

Aware that it is far from resolving the difficult problem, the government of socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero announced that the fund for the reception and integration of immigrants will be increased by two percent next year, to a total of 122 million euros (145 million dollars).

Some of the funds would go to the Red Cross and the Spanish Committee for Aid to Refugees, to be used specifically to provide temporary shelter to immigrants and help them find jobs and housing in Spain.

 
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MIGRATION-SPAIN: Scaling the Fences

Alicia Fraerman

MADRID, Sep 27 2005 (IPS) - Some 100 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa made it Tuesday over the high fences separating Morocco from the Spanish enclave of Melilla on the southern coast of the Mediterranean sea, while another 400 were kept out by the Civil Guard.
(more…)

 
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