Walls of Shame – Fortress Europe: The Spanish-Moroccan border

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  • The city of Ceuta is the southernmost outpost of fortress Europe. Yet it is on mainland Africa – opposite the Straights of Gibraltar. It is one of the last vestiges of Spanish rule in northern Morocco.

    Madrid insists it will never relinquish control and has cordoned it off – prompting comparison with other walls of shame.

    However, there are growing demands for a more constructive approach to the problem of illegal immigration. One man has already started a grass-roots initiative that proved much more successful than walls and fences.

    But within the town of Ceuta is another divide – a social division that is religious and economic – between the wealthy Christian Spaniards and their poorer Muslim compatriots of Moroccan descent.

    This episode of Walls of Shame first aired in November 2007.

    Update: 2015 was the deadliest year on record for migrants and refugees attempting to get into Europe. Over 3,700 people died – the majority on sea crossings between Libya and Italy or Turkey and Greece.

    Almost ten years ago, when the film first aired, the number of migrant deaths on Spanish territory had reached its peak. The world’s media only started to take notice when the drowned bodies of African migrants began washing ashore on the tourist beaches of the Spanish Canary islands.

    Spain’s response was to stiffen its border security, but despite all the effort and expense spent on beefing up its borders, migration is on the rise.

    Migrants, hoping to be among the lucky few to reach the other side, have often rushed the border fence – sometimes with tragic consequences. On one occasion in Ceuta in 2014, at least 14 African migrants drowned when trying to swim their way from Morocco to Spain.

    Those who made it alive were deported back to Morocco, on the other side of the wall.

    Today this no longer an issue isolated in a faraway Spanish enclave. The number of people hoping to reach Europe has swelled by a huge wave of refugees from wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Thousands of people are testing Europe’s borders, by the sea from Libya to Italy, and from Turkey to Greece, and then continuing over land to Europe’s more affluent countries.

    In response Europe is building more walls. Today there are five existing fences across the continent, with at least another six either in construction or scheduled.

    Most of these walls separate EU nations from countries outside the European Union, but some fences are planned between member states – a move that’s against the spirit of the EU, according to the EU’s foreign policy chief.

    “Europe was built on the idea that walls have to come down. It was built on the idea of coming together. Of overcoming differences. Of united. Walls are never the solution,” said Federica Mogherini, the EU High Representative, Foreign Affairs.

    Without a political solution in sight, migrants and refugees remain undeterred, taking on increasingly dangerous routes into Europe.

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    In This Story: Ceuta

    Ceuta is a Spanish autonomous city on the north coast of Africa. Bordered by Morocco, it lies along the boundary between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.

    It was part of the province of Cádiz until 14 March 1995. On that date, Statutes of Autonomy were passed for both Ceuta and Melilla.

    Ceuta, like Melilla and the Canary Islands, was classified as a free port before Spain joined the European Union. Its population consists of Christians, Muslims, and small minorities of Sephardic Jews and ethnic Sindhis from modern-day Pakistan.

    Spanish is the official language. Darija Arabic is also spoken by 40–50% of the population.

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