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Migrants head for Europe via Morocco

African men are fleeing for Europe via Ceuta, the Spanish enclave in North Africa.
Last modified: 3 Mar 2014 23:22

"Our cause is Europe"!

To achieve their cause, sub-Saharan migrants have one goal – reach the soil of Ceuta, the Spanish enclave in North Africa.

Dibongue Cyril is a young man from Cameroon. He graduated from law school in the University of Douala and, one day, he just decided to "do it".

With no prospect of a bright future in his country, he left his native village and for months he travelled through Nigeria, Niger, Mali and Algeria, before finally reaching Morocco.

He told me his story while guiding me through the hills above F'nideq, a Moroccan Mediterranean resort that is only two kilometers away from "Bab Sebta", as Moroccans call the border.

After an hour or so, we reached a spot on top of the hill. The forest there is dense and constitutes a safe haven for about 30 would-be immigrants from Cameroon, Gabon, Chad and other African countries.

In the beginning, I'm not really welcomed by the group because, as a young man from Gabon explains to me, they are fed up with journalists. They want nothing but to stay away from trouble.

The group was still mourning thirteen of their "brothers" who perished in the cold waters of the Mediterranean on February 6.

That day, about 400 would-be immigrants dived into the sea from the beach of F'nideq. They managed to swim the small distance that separates F'nideq from Ceuta.

Once there they say they were forced by Spain's Coast Guards to go back.

According to them, the guards fired at them with rubber-coated bullets. Thirteen are confirmed dead and more than 60 are still missing.

Mohammed Zellal leads a local human rights organisation based in Tétouan.

He explains the problem of illegal immigration from Africa to Europe at this point is that it is at a crossroads.

Countries like Spain and Morocco, he says, have to comply with International Law by guaranteeing the rights of immigrants, even if they hold no identification documents.

The problem also is the status of Ceuta: a European city located on African soil.

For Moroccans it is a reminiscence of Colonial times. For Spain, Ceuta and Melilla are part of Europe. European asylum rules and regulations have to be enforced in the enclaves and sub-Saharan immigrants know that.

Once in Ceuta, they would be welcomed into the Temporary Center for Immigrants and Asylum Seekers (CETI).

According to CETI's manager in Melilla, the centre is overcrowded with undocumented immigrants waiting for asylum papers and the Spanish government cannot send them back to Morocco.

This explains the high degree of coordination that is now in place between Madrid and Rabat. Their common policy is to prevent immigrants from touching the soil of Ceuta or Melilla.

But Dibongue and his comrades are adamant. As long as the CETI is in sight, they will keep on trying to fulfill their "European cause".