By Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2619

Refugees storm border fence in effort to reach Spain

This article is over 5 years, 7 months old
Issue 2619
An earlier clash in Ceuta between refugees and police
An earlier clash in Ceuta between refugees and police (Pic: Cristina Vergara Lopez/IRIN)

At least 100 refugees stormed a border fence in Morocco on Wednesday. It is the latest successful attempt by refugees to force their way into the Spanish-controlled territory of Ceuta in North Africa.

Some five refugees were injured as hundreds clambered the razor wire fences patrolled by the paramilitary Guarda Civil police force.

Some of the refugees who made it across marched to temporary reception centres, which many hope offer a route to safety in Europe.

Spanish authorities will now try to repatriate many of them back to their home countries. The refugees are mainly from countries in Sub Saharan Africa, fleeing war, dictatorship, poverty and climate change.

The ports of Ceuta and Melilla, which the Spanish state clung onto after Moroccan independence, have become key chokepoints in the refugee crisis. Over 3,000 refugees have made it across the border into these territories since the beginning of the year.

And the number of refugees who have made it into Europe through Spain has climbed to 19,586 this year according to the International Migration Organisation.

This means Spain has surpassed Italy and Greece—once the main refugee routes—because their governments have made it harder and harder to enter Europe.


The Spanish government has called on the European Union (EU) to stop Spain being turned into the “new Lampedusa”— the Italian island where many refugees are detained.

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez announced in June, shortly after taking office, that 630 passengers on the rescue ship Aquarius that had previously been turned away by Italy, could land at Valencia.

Hospitals have also recently begun treating migrants without residence permits again.

But there is a major debate now taking place with the right trying to use the issue to gain votes.

“It is not possible for Spain to absorb millions of Africans who want to come to Europe,” said Pablo Casado, the newly selected head of the conservative People’s Party. The border, he says, must be “defended.”

The ramping up of racism against refugees isn’t just down to far right or racist governments in Austria, Hungary and Italy. They want to impose internal borders and internment centres within the EU.

But the “centrist” politicians at the head of the EU, German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron, want to strengthen the EU’s external borders. Either way, refugees will drown in the Mediterranean.

And those who make it across face more repression and destitution, including the 1,000 who are trapped at Britain’s border in Calais.

The only solution is to let them in.

The refugees’ efforts in Morocco are another powerful reminder that they aren’t just passive victims of the West’s racist border fences and guards. Sporadically throughout the refugee crisis many have fought back against them.

Anti-racists in Britain have to build a powerful movement that stands in solidarity with refugees and forces the Tories to open the border.

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