Stark reality for migrants seeking better life in Spain
From all over Africa, people try to scale fences into Spanish enclaves in Morocco
Ibrahim, from Ivory Coast: “We’ve got it into our heads that we have to get to Europe, however difficult that might be.” Photograph: Guy Hedgecoe
Twenty feet up a tree, Ibrahim seems to have little regard for his safety as he reaches out at full stretch and snaps off branches for firewood. But since leaving his native Ivory Coast three years ago, this 18 year old has been in many more dangerous situations.
He is gathering the wood for the camp he and others from his country live in on the Moroccan mountain, Gourougou. Covered in forest and often shrouded in low cloud, Gourougou looks down on to the North African coast, just a few miles away. On that same coastline, within sight of the mountainside camp, is the Spanish city of Melilla, which represents the dream of these Africans: to reach Europe.
“We’ve got it into our heads that we have to get to Europe, however difficult that might be,” Ibrahim says, as he stacks the firewood into a large bundle. “This is no way to live,” he adds, referring to the camp.
Migrants from across sub-Saharan Africa are living up here. Many of them have been doing so for months, waiting for the right moment to descend en masse in the night, evade Moroccan security forces and scale the six-metre-high double border fence, which is crowned with flesh-ripping razor wire. Once over it, the law says they have reached Spain and cannot be sent back. Ibrahim says he has tried to climb it about 10 times, only to be thwarted on each occasion by Moroccan soldiers, who he says beat him brutally before he could escape back to the mountain.
The camp itself is made up of tents improvised from plastic sheets. Several small fires are smoking, some with battered cooking vessels over them. In some of the other African camps nearby there are women, but here there are only men and boys, all from Ivory Coast. Some are in their 20s, but many are teenagers.
Close to tears
Ibrahim left his country when he was 15, and he crossed Mali and Algeria by car and bus to reach Morocco. Back home, his parents and five siblings are depending on him reaching Europe and sending money back. But he is close to tears as he explains why he still has not contacted them since leaving.
“I can’t talk to them yet, because I don’t have anything,” he says. “I don’t want to tell them that I still haven’t got [to Spain]. I haven’t got the courage, you see, because if I called them now, it would only make them suffer even more.”