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Africans Vote with Their Feet for Spanish Tolerance and Prosperity



(p. A1) CEUTA, Spain -- For most migrants from Africa, the last stage of their trip to Europe involves some sort of perilous sea crossing. At the border in Ceuta, there is just a fence.

Ceuta (pronounced say-YOU-tah) is one of the two Spanish communities on the north coast of what otherwise would be Morocco, the only places where Europe has land borders with Africa. The other enclave is Melilla, farther east along the same coast.

Here, all that separates Europe from migrants is a double fence, 20 feet high and topped with barbed wire, stretching the four miles across the peninsula and dividing tiny Ceuta from Morocco -- plus 1,100 Spanish federal police and Guardia Civil officers, a paramilitary police force.

They patrol a crossing point that has come under growing pressure.


. . .


(p. A6) On any given day, young migrant men can be seen prowling on the Moroccan side, looking for an opportunity.

Some swim around the fences where they go down into the sea. Others take short, illicit boat trips to Ceuta from Morocco. But mostly they run and climb the fence, or use bolt-cutters to cut holes in it, and they are quickly spotted by motion detectors and guards in observation towers and usually beaten back by policemen using sticks and fists.

Salif, 20, from Cameroon, said he tried 10 times to cross the fence in the past year, until he finally made it over on his 11th effort.


. . .


Morocco has long demanded custody of Ceuta and Melilla, but Spain has refused, saying they were part of Spain for centuries before Morocco was even a state.

"We are in Europe, not in Africa," said Jacob Hachuel, the spokesman for the city. "But we have a border that has the biggest socio-economic differences between the two sides of any border in the world."

Despite the violence used to prevent efforts to cross the border, once inside Ceuta migrants find an easygoing climate. Some 40 to 50 percent of the 84,000 residents are Muslims of Moroccan origin; most of the rest are Spanish Christians. There are also minorities of Jews and Hindus in the seven-square-mile area.

The Jewish community is the oldest one in Spain, having escaped the 1492 expulsion of Jews from the rest of the country. "It's a mix of cultures, and we are used to having the other in our midst," said Mr. Hachuel, who is Jewish.

Anna Villaban, a government employee, said Ceuta's residents were proud of their city, which recently was host to three festivals, commemorating Ramadan for Muslims, Holi for Hindus and a local saint, San Antonio, for Christians.

"Where else would you see that?" she asked.



For the full story, see:

Rod Nordland. "'All of Africa Is Here': Hopes of Climbing to Spain." The New York Times (Monday, Aug. 20, 2018): A1 & A6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 19, 2018, and has the title "'All of Africa Is Here': Where Europe's Southern Border Is Just a Fence.")






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