A record number of refugees attempted to scale a barbed-wire fence separating the Spanish enclave, Ceuta, from Morocco. Many needed immediate medical attention, with local news footage showing people with bloody faces or hands, lying on the road.
Attempting to enter Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea, the mostly Sub-Saharan African migrants are now stranded in Morocco. Of the 700 stranded, at least 498 succeeded in crossing the border. Most will be sent home or let go, while others will apply for asylum in Spain’s mainland.
As migrants crowd into Ceuta’s reception center, humanitarian agencies raise safety concerns. Military tents in parking lots house the hundreds of asylum-seekers, but the sheer amount of migrants attempting to cross the border is unprecedented. According to Maria Vega from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), “[i]n 2016 there were around 1,000 people entering through the fences in the entire year. These numbers are not normal and [m]any people are waiting on the other side of the fence trying to reach Europe.”
Crossing the border proves extremely perilous and difficult, yet migrants continue to risk their lives to seek a better life. Spanish border guards prevent anyone of Sub-Saharan African appearance from nearing, so these immigrants resort to illegal means. While some attempt to scale the 20-foot fence, others pay smugglers to board boats traveling from Morocco to Spain across the Strait of Gibraltar. Most who enter Ceuta are Sub-Saharan Africans hailing from Nigeria, Guinea, and Senegal. They flee their countries because lawlessness and human trafficking run rampant. According to Vega, some families told her that they traveled from Libya due to the country’s ongoing civil war. There, the limited government fails to stop the violent war for power between militant groups, including ISIS.
In the new age of technology, those who struggle to survive daily see their Facebook feeds flood with pictures of friends and family traveling to Europe, where living conditions are better. Packages from relatives show that higher wages are real. The prospect of a better life urges migrants to make the long, dangerous journey to the Western world, where there is a lower threat of kidnapping and terrorism, and hope for prosperity.