Monday, November 5, 2007

On the Fence

Today’s top news story is the visit of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia to the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. Located on the northern coast of Africa and completely surrounded by Morocco, the cities are cause for major sovereignty disputes between Spain and Morocco, and with this week’s royal visit the scene of protests by the latter. Truth be told, the cities are a regular fixture on the news due to their uncomfortable position at the center of immigration conflicts between Africa and the EU. Instead of trying to cross the Strait of Gibraltar in precarious rafts, many Africans choose to attempt entrance into one of the two cities, thus giving them easier access to the rest of Europe. Because of that, both of the enclaves are surrounded by a double-rowed border fence, measuring 10 feet in height, topped with barbed wire, and equipped with motion sensors, night-vision cameras, and guard posts. Despite the impressive defenses, the fences are the sight of regular and organized attacks from groups of Africans (sometimes numbering into the hundreds) trying to scale the barrier and gain entrance. Typically some of them are successful at the cost of their own serious injuries and of others who are injured or even killed. Currently Spanish law allows for the immigrants to remain in Spain unless the government can prove the person’s identity and illegal status. The immigrants are actually at an advantage by not having documentation.

Reading up on the topic makes me think of the immigration disputes that exist in the States over the entrance of illegal immigrants from Mexico and beyond. If I remember correctly there is even discussion of and potential legislation proposing construction of a fence along the border. Before proceeding, it would seem prudent for the Washington lawmakers to study the cases of Ceuta and Melilla. Would the construction of such a fence lead to similar tactics by the would-be immigrants? Attacks where people are trampled by the masses in a desperate attempt to reach the promised land? What exactly is the acceptable price to pay to keep people out of the “civilized” world?

Update: Today's news confirms that trying to hop the fence is the lesser of two evils.


Mark said...

They've already thrown up fences and walls over a good portion of the U.S. - Mexican border. The government is paying a company something like a billion dollars a year and half the cameras don't work, illegal immigrants just cut through portions of the fence, tunnel under it, or swim around it from the Baja side.

Study how some other country deals with similar problems? I think you underestimate the arrogance of our administration.

Amy said...

True. What I found interesting was that the US only puts the fence in the urban areas and relies on expanses of "inhospitable desert" to keep out the immigrants. And yet many of the immigrants attacking the fence in Spain come from sub-Saharan Africa. Seems as though our adminstration also underestimates the depth of desperation. And the fence is more a symbol than anything else.

Graeme said...

The Spanish government has put heavy pressure on Morocco to stop the flow of those attempting to cross by land or sea. Hence the awful images of boats that are forced to set off from hundreds of miles further south to try and reach the Canary Islands. In Spain the number of immigrants that enter from Africa is tiny in any case, compared to those that arrive by air or other means.