B1 Intermediate US 199 Folder Collection
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If you zoom in to Morocco, you'll see a
tiny wedge of land that stands out from

its surroundings. This little bit of land
is surrounded by one of the most

fortified borders on the planet.
Right outside the border you'll find makeshift
forest camps, where people spend their
days and nights evading the police and

preparing to rush the border, usually in
large groups, with hopes of jumping over

and stepping foot on this land.
This peculiar scene plays out because
this piece of land, while in the

continent of Africa, is actually a piece
of Europe.

This small piece of land is called Melilla.
It's one of two Spanish enclaves in

Morocco, marking the only borders that
Europe shares with the continent of Africa.

Spain conquered Melilla in the late
1400s as part of its rapid global expansion.

This region of northern Africa
changed hands many times over the

following decades, but Spain kept hold of

Even in 1956, when the colonial
period was winding down and great powers
were ceding their colonies, Morocco had just

declared independence, but even then
Spain held onto its enclave.

Today, around 86,000 people live in Melilla
and when you're there you might as well

be in mainland Spain. The city is
designed with the distinctive Spanish

architectural style and residents speak
Spanish. They pay in Euros.

You're only reminded that you're not in mainland
Europe when you walk to the peripheries

of this city, to find one of the most
fortified border walls on the planet.

A seven mile barrier with layers of

The first layer is a 20-foot metal fence,
followed by a second fence with a

flexible top, which makes it harder to
climb. Below this second fence you have

barbed wire netting, strong and dense
webs, then comes another taller fence

with a flexible top section and more
barbed wire. Then you're on the Moroccan

side where, you have a 6.5
foot ditch and then a double fence with

you guessed it, more barbed wire. There
are lookout posts and every inch of the

border is monitored by video

To understand why this
barrier exists, you have to cross over
into the Moroccan town of Nador and

then into the forest in the hills
surrounding the enclave.

These migrants are mostly from
sub-Saharan Africa and they all have

different motives for leaving their

They gather in these camps and
plan for the day when they'll try to
cross into Melilla.

In response to this intense security, the migrants have
developed a technique that relies on
overpowering the border guards with

strength of numbers.
The groups range in
size, but are nearly always in the

hundreds. Most get caught right away on
the Moroccan side where they face border

agents who are not shy about using force.
Those who make it past the first few

layers, onto the Spanish section of the
barrier are also thrown back immediately

or detained, but because of their large
numbers a few will inevitably slip past

the guards. As soon as they put their
feet on the ground in Melilla, they are

technically in Europe and are guaranteed
certain protections under European Union law.

But they still have to run a hundred
meters to an immigration center, where

they can be taken in and given
protection from immediate deportation.

Arrivals to these enclaves came to a
head in 2014, when Spain decided it was

finally time to double down on its
effort to fortify this border. This was

mainly in response to the influx of
migrants attempting to get into Europe,

fleeing from conflicts in Africa and the
Middle East.

"Biggest wave refugees in modern history"
"hundreds of thousands of refugees"
"fleeing brutal violence in the Middle

"cross over European borders by the
hundreds of thousands"

"in overcrowded boats, many drowning along the way"
Spain's response to this migration
crisis was to focus on the borders of
its enclaves in Africa, redoubling the

efforts to keep migrants out of this
little slice of Europe. The year after

the 2014 migration crisis, attempts to
jump the fence dropped by 67%.

Spain didn't make these numbers drop on their
own. One of the things you'll notice when

you look at this wall, is that Moroccan
military and police are also guarding

this border. The year of the migration
crisis, Morocco built these two extra

layers of barbed wire fencing.
"But authorities say dense new anticlimb mesh
stopped the latest to make the attempt
in their tracks"

So why would Morocco
take the responsibility of building a
barrier and standing guard at Spain's border?

Turns out they have real
incentives to do so. Morocco has what's

called advanced status partnership with
Europe, which gives them economic and

political advantages in trade and
political affairs. The European Union

accounts for more than half of Morocco's
international trade and the EU also

provides Morocco with billions of Euros
in aid for security and development, so

the Moroccans in an effort to stay on
good terms with their northern neighbor,

take on the job of protecting Spain's
border. And they take their job very seriously.

Migrants had always had their forest camps right here,
right outside the city on this hill.

This was their camp for years and this
is the place where they used to regroup

and prepare a jump, until just a few
months ago when the Moroccan military

set up an outpost up here.
Now the migrants can't return and they have gone
to find another refuge, which is on a
hill 12 kilometers from here. Moroccan authorities

have started routinely raiding the camps.
But they don't deport them from
Morocco, they have other less

resource-intensive ways of keeping these
migrants from coordinating a large

enough group for a jump. The police were
here for three hours this morning, they

basically came in and stole a bunch of
stuff, they kind of disrupted these tents

and messed with these people's houses.
They harassed the women in violent ways.

They basically came here just to flex
their muscles and say you know we're in

charge, make sure you remember that.
About once a month the Moroccan authorities
round up the migrants and send them to
other parts of Morocco that are far away

from Melillah, preventing them from
gathering in a sufficient group to blitz the fence.

The Moroccan authorities are not concerned with keeping these
migrants out of Morocco, they're trying
to keep them from getting to Europe.

They do in many respects, a lot of Spain's and
Europe's dirty work, with respect to

blocking people whose interest is to

Another thing you'll notice is
that everyone in these camps is from
sub-Saharan Africa, basically countries

below this line.
All migrants face extreme difficulties in their journey to
Europe, but migrants from places like
Syria have a much easier time just

walking up to the border and asking for
asylum the proper way.

It's not an exaggeration to say that hardly any
sub-Saharan African is able to do that.

They do have to resort to very
dangerous methods, like scaling the

fences or hiding in vehicles or taking
to the sea.

Spain did build a new
office to handle the influx of migrants,
but not migrants from sub-Saharan Africa.

You might say well that's reasonable right? Everybody
knows there's a war in Syria, so of
course it makes sense to presume that

Syrians are fleeing the war and
they're refugees, they need protection.

But the flip side of that, the
presumption that people from countries

where there isn't like a live war, that
you are reading about in the newspapers,

the presumption that people from those
countries are not in need of

international protection, is a very
dangerous presumption.

The world is experiencing a record number of refugees
and displaced people. While some

countries have opened their doors to let
these people in, many are responding by

building walls, but this won't stop them
from coming. No matter how dangerous the

journey, the people in these camps will
keep trying.

That's the six episode of Borders, I hope
you've enjoyed this series. Today we also

launched the on-site experience for all
six of the Borders stories, with graphs

and charts and visualizations to kind of
go a little bit further into some of

these stories. I'm gonna leave a link
here where you can go see that and thank

you for being a part of this journey.
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Europe's most fortified border is in Africa

199 Folder Collection
Justin published on July 3, 2018
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