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Migrant mafias charging €18 for a chance to jump the border fence

A confidential report put together by the Civil Guard reveals how gangs are organized around Spain’s North African exclave cities Ceuta and Melilla

Some of the 116 migrants who managed to get over the Ceuta border fence on Wednesday.
Some of the 116 migrants who managed to get over the Ceuta border fence on Wednesday. REUTERS

Mafias are getting paid to organize 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, which has been seen by EL PAÍS, every migrant who wants to attempt the crossing is charged 200 Moroccan dirhams – the equivalent of around €18.

Mafia leaders are responsible for collecting money and resolving conflicts between migrants using punishments

The report says that 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.

Once the day has been set, the mafias round up the migrants and take away their cellphones, 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, feces, 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 officials give instructions on how to intimidate the police by shouting and throwing rocks, sticks, feces, battery acid and quicklime

The confidential document 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, on August 13, 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 that they pay each of the migrants €5,000 in damages. The Spanish government argues that there “was no expulsion, but rather prevention of entry.”

On Wednesday of this week, more than 100 migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa jumped over the border fence at Ceuta. According to the Civil Guard Union (AUGC), seven Civil Guard officers were injured in the incident, as well as several of the migrants. In July around 700 undocumented migrants made a similar attempt to cross into Spanish territory, with around 600 of them making it through.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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