Gangs are charging desperate migrants a fee to organise coordinated jumps at the border fence dividing Morocco from the Spanish North African exclave cities of Ceuta and Melilla. According to a confidential report from the Civil Guard, every migrant who wants to attempt the crossing is charged 200 Moroccan dirhams (about €18).
As reported by Spanish newspaper El País, which has seen the report, this fee allows the migrant to form part of a group under the protection of mafias. These groups are led by a so-called “president,” who works alongside a “prime minister” and various “officials,” according to the mafia terminology. Gang leaders are responsible for collecting money and resolving conflicts between migrants – using punishments such as being banned from the next crossing attempt into Spain – to maintain order.
The mafia decides the day, time and exact point on the border for the coordinated jump. Migrants who have not paid are not allowed to take part. Before the attempt, the groups send out scouts to “inspect the area and collect updated information on the security measures implemented by the Moroccan and Spanish security forces,” the report says.
As described by El País, once the day has been set, the mafias round up the migrants and take away their mobile telephones, which are not returned until they are close to the border fence. When the moment arrives, the officials lead the group to the chosen point and give instructions on how to intimidate the police by shouting and throwing items such as rocks, sticks, battery acid and quicklime. If they fail and more than a month passes before there is another attempt, the migrant will have to pay another 200 dirhams.
The confidential report was recently used by the Spanish government for an appeal at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in a case over two express deportations carried out under the former Popular Party (PP) government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Spain is accused of unfairly deporting two migrants from Mali and the Ivory Coast, who crossed the border fence dividing Morocco and Spain, in August 2014, instead of taking in the migrants for processing.
In October 2017, the court in Strasbourg ruled that the Spanish authorities had violated the European Human Rights Convention, and ordered they pay each of the migrants €5,000 in damages. The Spanish government argues that there “was no expulsion, but rather prevention of entry.”