Complicated, complicated, complicated. You hear the words over and again and I am not surprised by them. The Sub Saharan Migrant situation in Morocco is complicated. But as one Melillan who works with Migrants here in Melilla said today, “If everyone was treated as an equal-we would not have any problems in the World at all”. And I think I agree with him.
I met two guys today. They were touting for business washing cars. The younger of the two was a 19 year old from war torn Mali. He had climbed the fences recently. The older man was from Guinea. This had been his third attempt. He showed me his scars. One on his arm, one on his face, and a real corker of an injury to his shin. Moroccan beatings and barbed wire wounds. Thankfully though they both managed to get put into the immigration centre and had refugee status cards to prove it.
I went for a walk tonight. I’d come all this way and I only have 24 hours before I leave. It seemed crazy just to go to bed. I took a 5 euro taxi to the Eastern border, (only a 10 minute drive away) and stood looking at the hordes of metal fencing. Car boots were opening and closing like clockwork as border guards checked for suspicious outlines. On Thursday a heartbeat detector had been slid along the back bumper of a ‘deep red Honda Accord’. Amazingly, a Guinean man had been strapped to the underneath of the car with plastic ties. They caught him. He survived. I don’t know where he is now-hopefully in the immigration centre and not thrown back into Morocco-to try again.
It was dark at the border but the fence was there. I took the plunge. I puffed out my chest, tried to look as though I owned the place and followed half its length, about 6 kilometres. Not an easy thing to climb three fences. The first, 6 or 7 metres high, with intermittent razor wire at a 2 metre height. The tops of the fences have hinges on them that only go backwards. So you reach the top, and are automatically thrown back. Once somehow over the first, there is a lower second one plus wires crisscrossed below you to tangle your feet and then a third, higher than the second but this time without the hinge bit. Not fun.
I saw very few guards, loads of Guardia Civil vehicles though-but no one seemed to mind a solitary figure walking half the length of a very sensitive border fence-at night.
I found myself two hours later actually at the immigration centre. Overflowing to double its intended capacity this is the place where all ‘fence attempters’ hope to end up. It is their chance for papers, their chance for a life in Europe. There was a football match on the television and 800 cheering Africans could be heard from a long way off as I made my way the two and a half kilometres back into town and to my hotel room-lucky me.
There are still about a thousand unlucky Migrants, (‘People’ sounds nicer) up in the forests just a couple of miles away.
And what of a solution? I think these guys have got to stop jumping the fence. If these guys say they want help, and they do say so in the afore mentioned documentaries then somehow we have got to conjure up ‘that help’ exactly where they are ‘now’.
Medicine Sans Frontiers actually left the area a couple of months ago in protest against the Authorities lack of action on the issue of Migrants. It would be fantastic if they felt able to go back as reportedly abuse has got worse since they left.
I met a journalist for the local Melilla paper today. A lot of his work is centred around the Migrant problem. He speaks good English. I have his telephone number. I will send him tomorrow’s blog post which will tie in with an excellent 66 page report written by the UK’s leading think tank, IPPR, the Institute for Public Policy Research. For two years they researched the Sub Saharan Migrant problem in Morocco. It is in depth, very accurate, makes a lot of sense, and if somehow followed, could just somehow maybe produce that magic wand. These people need it. These people have asked for it. My advice, (for what it’s worth People, have the courage, belief and trust to ‘consider’ stopping your efforts to jump the fence. There are many people that want to help you exactly where you are right now.
Yes, the situation is complicated, very complicated but it’s time we brought everyone up to the same level…and then all the problems in the World will disappear-our magic wand.