Every night many refugees storm the facilities, throw ladders against the wire and climb up, tearing their skin in the process. Images of the sad spectacle repeating itself night after night flashed around the world. Whoever landed on the Spanish side of the fence had won. Many fell back onto Moroccan territory. Some lost their lives on the fence. At least 14 died, either by being shot by Moroccan or Spanish border guards or from their injuries.
Spain spent more than €30 million fortifying the border. Back home, critics spoke of “walls of shame”. Ever since the cities
have sealed themselves off more securely, refugees have instead been crossing the Mediterranean in ramshackle boats. They originally started going via the Canary Islands, but patrols increased there too and now they end up landing primarily in Italy and Malta.
The citizens of Ceuta and Melilla, meanwhile, now live in fortresses. About 75,000 people live behind the fences in both towns, eating Moroccan fish, fruit and vegetables which are piled high at the local markets. Last year, however, the market stalls were bare. Moroccans boycotted the exclaves, accusing the Spanish border officials of racism. The protests were clearly organized but to this day it still isn’t clear exactly why the situation got out of hand. Was Morocco trying to force Spain to come out against the Western Sahara region’s desire for independence? Was the Moroccan king angry because Spanish military helicopters had flown over his royal yacht? After a few royal phone calls — Juan Carlos tried to placate his “dear cousin” — relations improved once again. Yet Morocco will continue to demand Ceuta and Melilla back regularly in future.