To many Sub-Saharan Africans, migration is as much a rite of passage as it is an opportunity to escape famine, war, and poverty in their home countries. Every year, tens of thousands of migrants make their way across Africa in search of a better life in Europe, risking their lives in the journey. The trip can take years and many migrants die along the way – whether it is from the various dangers they encounter on the journey or at the hands of heavy handed border police on the Spain-Morocco border. “Europe’s wall of shame” offers an intimate insight into the hidden lives of Sub-Saharan African migrants living in Northern Morocco – and the heavy-handed efforts of the European Union to keep them from illegally entering Spain. For Bruno, a 23 year old migrant who fled poverty in Cameroon, his dream is to enter Europe by jumping a highly-militarized barrier into Melilla, a Spanish enclave on the African continent. With unique access, this film documents the reality of these migrants trapped in limbo, as well as the mistreatment they face from both the Moroccan and Spanish authorities. Although the majority of these migrants are from Sub-Saharan Africa, in recent years the borders have been also attracting people from furtherer field with some coming from as far as some war-torn countries in the Middle East. The conflicts in Syria and Iraq have driven hundreds of families to brave long and dangerous journeys in order to reach relative safety in Europe. The documentary also depicts the reality of the lives of these refugees across the borders.
TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00
Narration: Every year, tens of thousands of migrants attempt a dangerous journey into Europe.
SOUND UP [English]: “Victory! Victory! Victory!”
Narration: For them the world’s wealthiest continent represents an opportunity to escape the poverty…
SOUNDBITE [French] Larry, Migrant from the Central African Republic: “I don't have work.”
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Saleem Al-Assaf, migrant From Syria: “I left my university. I left my family. I left my people.”
Narration: … or persecution of their homelands.
SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Jose Palazon, Human Right Activist: “The journey is terrible. Terrible.”
Narration: But the journey is fraught with danger and for those who do enter Europe, success can be bittersweet.
SOUNDBITE [French] Bruno Atando, Migrant from Cameron: “My friends in Ceuta died.”
Narration: This is ‘Europe’s Wall of Shame’
The border fence around this small piece of Spanish territory is all that separates Africa from Europe. Comprised of three fences, barbed wire and security cameras, the wall is supposed to act as a deterrent for people trying to enter. But hundreds of undocumented migrants are still arriving every month. Bruno from Cameroon was one of thousands of Africans who successfully scaled the fence in 20-14.
SOUNDBITE [French] Bruno Atando, Migrant from Cameron: “I entered at 5 o'clock in the morning. When we entered, we all separated. So we started asking the people of Melilla to direct us to CETI (Temporary Centre for Immigrants and Asylum Seekers). When we saw the Civil Guard, and the police, we hid until we reached the camp.”
Narration: With the migrants adopting a strategy of coordinated mass assaults on the border – the Spanish authorities have often been powerless to stop the waves of desperate and determined migrants from entering the territory.
SOUND UP: “Victory! Victory! Victory!”
Narration: Spain’s Interior Ministry says that over 2,000 migrants have already made it across in 2014.
Bruno travelled to Melilla with his childhood friend, Suh. They hope Europe can offer them better life opportunities and a chance to help support their families back home.
SOUNDBITE [English] Suh Abongwa, Migrant fro Cameron: “I’m Suh Abongwa. I’m 22 years old, and I’m a Cameroonian. After my dad lost his job, it became difficult for us in Cameroon. So I chose to come to Europe and see how life over here is.”
Narration: Surrounded by Moroccan land, the Spanish-held enclaves of Melilla and Ce-yuta are the only European cities that share land borders with Africa. It's an anomaly that has made the territories an attractive stop for migrants who use these cities as a way into mainland Europe. Like Suh, many of the migrants who end up in Melilla, are driven by the desire to improve their financial wellbeing. Here, they’re not allowed to work, but there are still ways of making money. Larry from the Central African Republic has been in the city for only 5 months. Yet in that time, he's set up his own car washing business.
SOUNDBITE [French] Larry, Migrant from the Central African Republic: “He said to clean underneath.”
SOUNDBITE [French] Larry, Migrant from the Central African Republic: “I left the Central African Republic because I had a lot of financial problems. I didn’t have work. I had a wife and a son whom I left my child behind. We don’t have any work here. I wash and park cars. I get one or two euros. I cannot keep everything I earn. I cannot buy better clothes or better shoes.”
TIME CODE: 05:00_10:00
SOUNDBITE [French] Mustafa Hamid, Director at Melilla Hoy: “The migrants live one life and the residents of Melilla live another. In Melilla, migrants try to make a life by washing cars, pushing supermarket trolleys or guarding vehicles. They do odd jobs so they can make enough money to buy mobile phone credit.”
Narration: Mustafa Hamid is the Director of the main local newspaper, Melilla Hoy. Over the years, he’s seen the numbers of migrants to the city grow steadily.
SOUNDBITE [French] Mustafa Hamid, Director at Melilla Hoy: “Immigration through the fence is a big story here. The image of people stuck on the razor wire is very shocking, and the situation is very severe. The immigration phenomenon surged towards the end of the 90’s. This was when we had the first arrivals of Sub-Saharan immigrants. They started arriving a few at a time until one day the number went off the scale. At the time there was no refuge centre, there was nothing. They had to stay in abandoned buildings. One was the old Red Cross building. Later they went onto an abandoned farm, but the number of migrants kept growing. So then CETI temporary holding centre for immigrants was opened in 2006.”
Narration: The migrants who successfully enter Melilla stay at CETI, the city's only temporary migrant detention centre.
SOUNDBITE [French] Bruno Atando, Migrant from Cameron: “CETI, we eat three times a day. We have breakfast, lunch and supper. They give us soap, shampoo, a toothbrush and toothpaste. They change our clothes and bed sheets.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Suh Abongwa, Migrant fro Cameron: “We have so many rules that govern us. For instance, there are human rights here. If somebody hurts you, you just have to go to the authorities and report it. Fighting is strictly prohibited here.”
Narration: Upon reaching the enclave, the migrants are often happy to receive medical care and advice. But some human rights groups have complained about the overcrowded conditions at the facility. The centre has a capacity of 470 people. But in 20-14 there were over 2000 residents. Secretly filmed footage handed to Press TV by one CETI resident shows severe unhygienic conditions at the camp.
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Saleem Al-Assaf, migrant From Syria: “I can’t use the bathroom. I can’t use the toilettes because they're always blocked, dirty and unhygienic. I feel like I’m camping outside, not living in a room in CETI. If there’s heavy rain, all the sewage overflows into the living areas. The care standards at CETI are zero, not good at all.”
Narration: Between 2007 and 2013, 1.8 billion euros of EU funding was allocated to control its external borders. But only 700 million was spent on improving the situation for migrants and asylum seekers.
ON SCREEN TEXT:
EU FUNDING IN 2007 - 2013
700 million spent on improvements for migrants and asylum seekers
1.8 billion euros allocated to control external borders
Narration: The priority for the EU and its member states is not to improve conditions for the surging numbers of migrants and asylum seekers. But to stop them from entering in the first place. To do this, the EU has been supporting “migration control systems” of neighboring countries in an effort to stop migrants and refugees before they even reach Europe’s actual frontiers. Arrangements with third countries such as Libya, Morocco and Turkey are seeking to turn these regions into buffer zones around EU borders and block irregular migration towards Europe. But research shows that EU demands being placed on third countries to prevent irregular migration, puts refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants at risk of prolonged arbitrary detention and ill-treatment.
TIME CODE: 10:00_15:00
SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Jose Palazon, Human Right Activist: “My name is José Palazón. I live in Melilla, and I'm a teacher. I also work on human rights and social issues. You hear a lot about people drowning in the Mediterranean Sea, but there are just as many deaths in the desert and little is known about this. The migrants just want to stay alive. They suffer every type of violation. Human rights violation, torture, maltreatment and exploitation. The journey is terrible. Terrible.”
ON SCREEN TEXT: Gourougou, Morocco
Narration: The crackdown of migrants in third countries has forced many of them into hiding. Here, the Gourourgou Mountain in Northern Morocco is home to thousands of sub-Saharan African migrants.
SOUNDBITE [French] Mohamed, Migrant from Mali: “I have been here for seven months. The police harass us so much. They come at 7 or 8 am and search all over the mountain.”
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Adil Akeed, The Moroccan Assoc. of Human Rights: “I believe there are between 20,000 and 40,000 migrants living in Morocco. I'm Adil Akeed, and I'm from the Moroccan Association of Human Rights in Nador. Migrants have a right to life, the right to travel. But when they arrive, they're arrested and deported. Before 2014, they were dumped on the Algerian border. Now they're dispersed around Morocco, in either Rabat or Casablanca. They live in difficult conditions, on the run from the Moroccan Forces who mistreat them. Sometimes the guards enter the forests in the early morning to burn the migrant camps. They take their possessions, including mobile phones, money and clothes. And to make matters worse, they beat them.”
SOUNDBITE [French] Bruno Atando, Migrant from Cameron: “I was in Nador for two years. We had no rest in Nador. The Moroccan police did not want us to live in the mountains and they disturbed us all the time. Sometime they would come in the morning and we would run. When they caught us, they would beat us. They would beat us and send us to the border. The Algerian police would sometimes catch us too. They're very wicked, very bad, the Algerian police. They shot one Malian on his buttocks, on his waist. Sometimes they drink the whole night and get drunk. They always have bullets in their guns.”
Narration: With limited access to safe food and water, the migrants often rely on hand-outs in order to survive.
TIME CODE: 15:00_20:00
SOUNDBITE [French] Mohamed, Migrant from Mali: “When we go into a town, we beg people to give us food to eat.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Suh Abongwa, Migrant fro Cameron: “You go around begging for money on the street to eat something. You beg for food because you are not allowed to work or move around on the streets. So you always go around, begging people to give you money to eat something, to give you food, to give you clothes. If you are sick, you go around and beg for medication. So life in Morocco was really tough.”
Narration: Over the last 14 years, at least 23,000 people are estimated to have lost their lives trying to reach Europe. But even those who make it to the borders of the European Union, find that safety is not guaranteed. On the morning of the 6th February 2014, a group of about 400 sub-Saharan migrants, refugees and asylum seekers attempted to cross the border between Morocco and Ceuta via its land and sea borders. But the attempt ended in tragedy. Bruno, who was among those trying to get in, explains what happened.
SOUNDBITE [French] Bruno Atando, Migrant from Cameron: “At two o' clock at night we hid in the forest because we wanted to go and attack very late while the police were sleeping. We walked by slowly because we are so many. We walked in groups of ten. When we got close to the barrier we began to run before the police woke up. When we jumped into the water, in order to swim into Ceuta, the Civil Guards in Ceuta blocked the entrance. They blocked it. Some people didn't know how to swim very well so the wave came and they drowned. My friends in Ceuta died.”
Narration: While the migrants were in the water, members of the Spanish Civil Guard opened fire with rubber bullets and tear gas. Fourteen people lost their lives.
Under increasing pressure to explain the deaths, Spain’s Interior Ministry quickly released CCTV footage of the incident but was criticised for releasing an edited version of events.
The video raised more questions that it sought to answer.
SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Jose Palazon, Human Right Activist: “Here you can see the Moroccan Security Forces doing nothing. The video is cut when the immigrants get to the Spanish territory in the sea. The section, from the time they pass the Moroccan Forces to the when they're evicted from Morocco, all of that is cut. They haven’t shown that, they’ve edited it out. The image they provide is of the immigrants throwing stones. This group didn’t reach the other side, they saw heir friends being killed.”
Narration: Spain initially said that no bullets had been fired. But mobile footage telling a different story began to emerge online. The Spanish Minister of the Interior, Jorge Fernández Díaz, was forced to admit that anti-riot equipment, including rubber projectiles, had been fired towards the sea but only “to mark the border.”
SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Jorge Fernandez Diaz, Interior Minister of Spain: “In addition to the use of rubber bullets - which are always used as a deterrent - they were launched from land as a result of the orders given by experienced officers in command. Established employment protocols already make clear that any orders of this nature must cease if lives are at risk. As I said, the equipment used was made up of riot rubber cartridges, which only make noise. The Civil Guard also reported the use of rubber bullets, which were used as a deterrent to the people trying to reach Spanish waters.”
TIME CODE: 20:00_25:00
Narration: Jose Alonso Sanchez is a human rights lawyer in Melilla. He believes the events of the 6th February in Ceuta were a violation of international and regional human rights law.
SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Jose Alonso Sanchez, Human Rights Lawyer: “In my opinion it was a crime. Everyone is arguing about whether rubber bullets were fired but it doesn’t matter. A police officer’s obligation is to help a person who is in trouble. The primary duty of someone who is a member of the State’s Security Force is to help a person in need. To refuse life saving assistance is a crime, as set out in the Penal Code. So you can argue about whether bullets were fired or not but the fact remains that they were there, with their arms folded, offering no help.”
Narration: The European Union and various human rights groups have since called for a full investigation into the incident. But, as of yet, no one has been held to account.
Emilio Guerra of the Union Progreso y Democracia political party, says although the deaths were a tragedy, the assaults on the fence pose a difficult challenge to Spain’s Civil Guard officers, whose primary job is to protect Europe’s borders.
SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Emilio Guerra, Coordinator at Union: “Human desperation is the cause of these mass storming attempts, be it by land or by sea. Incidents like these create a big dilemma because the State’s Security Forces are ultimately there to protect our borders. The Security Forces find themselves in difficult situations, situations that overwhelm them, situations which can't be contained. And unfortunately situations like this often happen. We have people dying, people drowning and we have people suffering injuries when they try to get over the fences.”
SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Jose Palazon, Human Right Activist: “15 people died in Ceuta on that day. Here in Melilla, in the last year, 43 people have died because of the actions of the Spanish and Moroccan Security Forces. The difference is that 15 people died in Ceuta on that one day and here in Melilla they died one by one over the course of a year. But that has less impact, doesn’t it? It was the illegal actions of the Spanish and Moroccan Security Forces that caused the deaths of many immigrants and injured hundreds. Terrible, isn’t’ it?”
SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Jose Alonso Sanchez, Human Rights Lawyer: “A big responsibility lies with the Interior Minister because the whole of Spain is aware of this incident. The Interior Ministry was kept informed of what was happening to the minute. But, in this case, they said that Ceuta and Melilla do not have territorial waters. Every country has territorial waters. And you don’t refuse to help people because they're not in territorial waters, right? As well as committing a criminal act, the Interior Minister showed a criminal and hypocritical attitude.”
Narration: In part two... the migrants and refugees who are risking it all for a better life and the extraordinary residents of Melilla, who are helping them cope with the trauma of their past and the stress of an uncertain future.
Every year thousands of migrants and refugees gain entry into the European Union by crossing into Melilla. The majority of those trying to reach this territory are from sub-Saharan Africa. But in recent years the borders have also been attracting people from further afield, with some coming from as far away as war torn countries in the Middle East. The conflict in Syria and Iraq has driven hundreds of families to brave long and dangerous journeys in order to reach the safety of Europe. For some families, the stress of the journey can be overwhelming.
TIME CODE: 25:00_30:00
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Abdel Hadi, Syrian refugee: “For two months, this woman has been in CETI while her son has been in Nador, Morocco. She's not the first woman to faint from happiness. Two or three others have also fainted. She’s just found out that she'll be reunited with her son who was in Nador. That's why she fainted.”
Narration: Syrian refugee Abdel Hadi has spent the last year and a half travelling across North Africa in order to seek refuge in Melilla.
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Abdel Hadi, Syrian refugee: “We Syrians have been scattered. Do you know what I mean when I say 'scattered'? Like the father can be in Nador and his wife and children can be here. A mother can have two or three children still stuck in Nador.”
Narration: Unlike the Sub Saharan residents of CETI, Syrians don't scale the fence to get into Melilla. They use forged or Moroccan passports.
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Abdel Hadi, Syrian refugee: “This young man would costs 1,500 euros. Whereas an adult woman would cost 2,000 euros to get in. This migration route is well-known around the whole world. You can buy a passport from criminals or drug addicts and travel with it. If it doesn't work, you just go back and try again.”
Narration: With the increasing numbers of migrants putting a strain on the services of the CETI, a group of Spanish volunteers is doing what it can to ease the suffering of new arrivals.
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Abdel Hadi, Syrian refugee: “This is incredible, isn’t it? The budget for CETI used to be 2,900,00 euros. And now they are awarding only 1,600,000 euros. Can you imagine how that will affect the quality or quantity of food?”
SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Yonaida Selam, President of the Intercultural Association: “The case of Syrians has attracted a lot of attention here. We help because we empathise with them as Muslims and because Syria is at war. My name is Yonaida Selam, I'm 36 years old and I'm the President of the Intercultural Association. Our socio-cultural organisation has been influenced by the multicultural composition of this city. We mainly focus on refugee and migrant issues because Melilla is a city which gives it scope.”
SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Raja Idrissi, Volunteer at Intercultural Association of Malilla: “They came here lost. They didn't even know how to speak. From time to time they need help translating their documents and so they call me. They also call me when for help when they have family disputes. Even though we can't translate at the police station anymore at least we can help them with translations elsewhere.”
SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Yonaida Selam, President of the Intercultural Association: “You’re right. There are other people for that now.”
SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Raja Idrissi, Volunteer at Intercultural Association of Malilla: “Yes.”
SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Yonaida Selam, President of the Intercultural Association: “We started in 2005 when the first waves of Sub-Saharan immigrants arrived. We even went to the Gourougu forest and helped them there. We often go to the Spanish Ombudsman to complain about the way Sub-Saharan Africans are being treated on both sides of the fence, by officers and the Civil Guard. We hope our work will help people understand that migrants are fleeing Africa for a reason.”
SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Raja Idrissi, Volunteer at Intercultural Association of Malilla: “I joined the volunteers because I felt they needed my help and I was able to do something. I thought to myself, "I'm cold in my home, so imagine how cold the people outside must be". I sympathised with them. I sympathised with their problems. Ever since the Syrians came to the mosque I have been helping out and I will continue until the last one leaves Melilla.”
Narration: The local mosque is a place where migrants are offered food, shelter and advice. Today it is being used by one Syrian family to pass the time, before the children have to go back to a separate facility for migrant youth. The authorities suspect some Syrian families of pass off extended relatives as their own children. Until proven with DNA tests, the children must live separately.
TIME CODE: 30:00_35:00
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Amal, Syrian Refugee: “My problem is that I'm living in CETI while my son is living in the youth centre and we did DNA tests and everything. Everything they asked of me, I did it. Now I want my son to come and stay with me at the CETI.”
SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Jose Alonso Sanchez, Human Rights Lawyer: “People coming from Africa, the Middle East and Asia all face really difficult challenges. But he worst cases may be the refugees, the people who come from war-torn countries, persecuted for political and religious reasons. They flee, but every door is closed in their faces. They may be the most vulnerable of all.”
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Saleem Al-Assaf, migrant From Syria: “I came to Melilla to seek refuge, like any Syrian who left his country. Our country is suffering from destruction, from calamity, killings and war. Nobody can be expected to live amongst war and death. That's why I left my university, my family, my people, my mother and my wife. I came to Europe so I can I live in safety. I want my family to eventually join me in Europe, which is a safe place and can offer us a good life. But unfortunately, our journey from Syria to Europe has been extremely difficult.”
Narration: Since the beginning of the crisis in Syria, over 2.8 million Syrians have fled their homes – more than half of them children. But less than 100,000 have reached Europe. Some countries in the EU have tried to justify increasingly harsh migration policies on the grounds that Europe is having to cope with more than its fair share of refugees and migrants.
SOUNDBITE [French] Francois Holland, French President: “Our duty is to make sure that migrants can have another destiny in their country. It’s still possible. And we must act on the causes, not be a welcoming place for all those who want to come to Europe.”
Narration: It’s argued that the majority of those illegally entering Europe are economic migrants, not refugees and asylum seekers.But in 2013 63% of all those arriving illegally by sea came from countries torn by conflict and widespread human rights abuses, including Syria, Eritrea, Afghanistan and Somalia.
SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Jose Palazon, Human Right Activist: “CETI has enough space for 450 immigrants. But right now, there are 1,900 residents who are squeezed in. The migrants are mixed but there are currently many Syrians. This afternoon we have an appointment with some Syrians at CETI. They have a serious problem regarding a young member of their family and they are scared to hand them to the authorities so they're staying at a private house.”
SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Jose Palazon, Human Right Activist: “I am a teacher and I also work on human rights and social causes. All of this work is completely voluntary.
I normally go to the CETI or the immigrants come to me. Our organisation’s work is very varied. For example, today we’re offering legal advice. But we also do administrative work and provide healthcare. We don’t receive any grants or funding, but each member of our association does something useful. we have a doctor who proves free medical care to migrants. And we have a lawyer, who provides free legal advice. We also have a teacher who provides free classes. So we have a very diverse collective of people who volunteer their skills in any way they can.”
Narration: Life at the camp in Melilla can feel slow and uneventful. Though sometimes the residents hear some unexpected news. Every so often, the staff at the camp publish a list of migrants who've been cleared to travel to mainland Spain. It's the news that every migrant is waiting for.
SOUNDBITE [English] Jaki, Migrant from the Central African Republic: “My brother came and said to me, "Your name is up on the board. They say you are going tomorrow". I thought he was joking but he was so happy. I have to say that I am so happy because I have been waiting for this for a long time. I am so happy that I feel like jumping!”
TIME CODE: 35:00_40:00
Narration: But not everyone at the camp hears the news they were hoping for.
SOUNDBITE [French] Bruno Atando, Migrant from Cameron: “They placed the names, this afternoon, of the people that are travelling to Malaga, Madrid and Almeria. My name didn't come up so I'm not feeling fine, I’m not happy. I needed my name to be there too because I want to travel. I don't want to be here in Melilla.”
SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Jose Palazon, Human Right Activist: “The CETI is good. It's a centre that you can see is brand new. But there is a serious psychological problem. When migrants arrive from Africa, they're used to battling with the desert, with the military, with the police. After finally scaling the fence, they think they’ve succeeded. They believe it’s the last of all the obstacles. But when they get to the centre, there’s a psychological assault. Now they can't run. It's no longer a case of scaling a fence. It’s something else. They don’t know if they are coming or going. When they arrive, they don’t know whether they’ll be free in six months or six years and that completely unbalances them.”
Narration: With record numbers of migrants successfully entreating the enclave, the Spanish authorities have been under increased pressure from the European Union to stop the mass assaults over the border. The Spanish guards have been accused of sending migrants back to Moroccan territory, in a practice refereed to as ‘pushback’.
SOUNDBITE [French] Bruno Atando, Migrant from Cameron: “I've tried to enter Melilla about seven times but I have succeeded three times. The first time I entered the Civil Guard put me out. The third time the Civil Guard did the same. So now I'm in Melilla after succeeding the fourth time. When we tried to enter Melilla and we didn't succeed, the Moroccan police would hold us and beat us, break our legs. I know some people still in the forest can't walk. They're still there, they can't walk. Their Injuries are very bad.”
Narration: Human rights worker Jose Palazon documents illegal “pushbacks” with his camera. “Pushbacks” happen when people are literally ‘pushed back’ to the country they are trying to leave – or in some cases into the sea – shortly after they cross the border, without an opportunity to challenge their forced return.
The deportation of a group of people without looking at each case individually is a collective expulsion and is prohibited under international law.
In this footage posted to his website, Jose provides real evidence of beatings and pushbacks on the Spain-Africa border.
SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Jose Palazon, Human Right Activist: “When an immigrant comes into Melilla and scales the fence the Civil Guard would run after them, look for them, catch them, arrest them then take them to the border, open the small service door and then would deport them. A Civil Guard is not allowed to deport anyone. A Civil Guard is not a judge. A Civil Guard is a Civil Guard, right? But the Civil Guard has been given a key to the door, which they use to eject the immigrant and hand them to the Moroccan army.”
SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Jose Alonso Sanchez, Human Rights Lawyer: “When I was walking in the first in Morocco, close to here, I met immigrants who had papers from the Spanish police, which proved they had been processed here. They had been caught and arrested in the streets in Spain and deported, even though they had papers proving they had been processed in Europe. They lost their rights and everything.”
Narration: As of May 20-14, the EU had signed readmission agreements with 17 countries – including Morocco. Spain denies any wrongdoing and says its border guards are acting professionally and within the law.
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Adil Akeed, The Moroccan Assoc. of Human Rights: “When the migrants scale the fence the Spanish guards often return them. The migrants are surrounded, from the Spanish side to the Moroccan side. They are removed from Melilla and hades over to the Moroccan guards.”
TIME CODE: 40:00_45:00
SOUNDBITE [French] Mustafa Hamid, Director at Melilla Hoy: “The Spanish government maintains that the returns at the fence are not illegal deportations; they are border expulsions so they have the right o do it. But once the migrants enter the city and reach the CETI or the police station, they cannot be returned.”
Narration: The EU readmission agreements allow for the legal expulsion of non-EU citizens to their country of origin or transit.
But the agreements should only concern illegal migrants. There are concerns that asylum seekers are also being sent back to transit or source countries, without access to proper asylum procedures.
Growing confusion over the legalities of this practice has resulted in a number of Civil Guard groups calling for more clarity from the Spanish government.
SOUNDBITE [French] Mustafa Hamid, Director at Melilla Hoy: “The Unified Association of the Civil Guards of Melilla asked the Interior Minister to draft protocols on what to do when migrants scale the fence, which steps to take and which decisions to make at that moment and whether they can return them that moment or whether they have to take them to CETI or to the police station. According to the Civil Guard Association, the protocols are not clear enough. But the government says the opposite. It says that, as professionals the Civil Guard should know what to do at every moment and knows what the law is.”
SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Jose Alonso Sanchez, Human Rights Lawyer: “What is happening in African is a true genocide. Entire countries have been destroyed. Countries that are rich in natural resources, are made poor by wealthy countries. What's happening in Ceuta and Melilla is similar to what's happening in other places in the Canaries, in Lampedusa. These places act as lids. Lids so that all these poor people can't leave Africa. All the powers that control the world have decided that people should die and suffer wherever they were born, with no chance of moving away. But this is not in accordance with a person’s right for free movement and the right to make one’s life wherever one desires. Cities like Melilla are acting like a lid on this whole disgrace.”
SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Emilio Guerra, Coordinator at Union: “Melilla and Ceuta are Spanish cities, which try to comply with their European agreements. We're Schengen Cities, so we have an obligation and responsibility to look after our borders, which are European borders. We need Europe and the European institution to keep their eye on these cities as well and to put a specific support plan in place. Migration is not just Spain and Morocco’s problem. It is a problem for Europe.”
Narration: The Spanish authorities have long denied that its border forces are carrying out summary returns of migrants.But in March 2015, Madrid introduced new anti-terror measure to legalise summary expulsions from the enclaves.
Bruno and his childhood friend Suh, haven’t seen their families for two and a half years.
SOUNDBITE [French] Bruno Atando, Migrant from Cameron: “When I want to talk to my mum, I must call her. My mum is very happy for me but whenever I talk to her over the phone she always tells me, "Bruno, I miss you so much because you used to help at home, doing work. But now you are not here". So she misses me, she misses me a lot. I miss my family a lot too because I remember when we used to eat together, playing, watching TV. I miss them so much.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Suh Abongwa, Migrant fro Cameron: “The last time I saw my family was two years and five months ago. As soon as I get my papers, I think I will have to pay a visit back home to visit my mum and my sisters to see how my family is doing.”
TIME CODE: 45:00_48:00
Narration: Spain is one of the countries hardest hit by the economic crisis and it has some of Europe's highest levels of unemployment so it's no surprise that many of the migrants who pass through Melilla have already made plans to settle elsewhere.
SOUNDBITE [French] Bruno Atando, Migrant from Cameron: “My mum had no money for me to follow education so things were very hard. My plans? I would like to go to Germany to play football. I want to be a footballer because I play football very well. My dream? I've always wanted, ever since I was a little boy growing up, I've always loved to be a big man, so I could take good care of my mum. I was very focused on my studies so I could be a big man tomorrow, so I could take care of my kid sister, my older sister and my mum.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Suh Abongwa, Migrant fro Cameron: “I've got so many plans in my head. I want to move to Germany. On arriving in Germany I want to start up a small business where I can raise money so I can help my poor mum and poor family over there in Cameroon. Afterwards I can go back to school.”
SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Jose Alonso Sanchez, Human Rights Lawyer: “The only way to halt illegal migration is for us to stop wars and stop exploiting the natural resources of poor countries. This is really the only solution. Otherwise, migrants will continue to die on the border, on the fences, on the razor wire.”
SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Jose Palazon, Human Right Activist: “If an African could get a visa to Europe, with realistic conditions attached, he would come, stay for three or four months and then leave because they could always come back. As Europeans, we are allowed to travel freely. But it’s not a case of us going and that’s it. We come and go like a normal person, right? Why can’t Africans have the same rights?”
Narration: The European Union and member states frequently pay lip service to the rights of people to seek asylum and Europe’s obligation to provide it. The reality, however, is that almost half of those illegally entering Europe are fleeing conflict and persecution. And for them, entering the EU is just as difficult as it is for economic migrants. All are exposed to unacceptable risks to their lives, as a result of the EU’s relentless drive to reduce the number of migrants arriving on its shores.