The Moroccan Frontier

Trip Start Jan 31, 1996
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Spain and Canary Islands  ,
Tuesday, April 17, 2001

It was a mad rush from Malaga along southern Spain's Costa de Sol. Ellen and I wanted to make the last boat of the day from Algeciras, Spain to Ceuta, a Spanish enclave on Morocco's Mediterranean coast. A football field-sized hydrofoil jetted us across the Strait of Gibraltar in about an hour. Enclave is exactly what Ceuta is; a police guarded oasis, filled with wonderful little restaurants and cafes on the edge of a precipice that is Morocco. After a meal of fish at a tiny bistro we wandered back to our quite little pension just off the town square for a short jet-lagged sleep.

The following morning we made our way to the Moroccan frontier and a jolt of reality. There was only one border crossing line, at least that we could see. We found ourselves in a quay with several hundred others behind a tall barbered wire chain linked fence. Standing in line we could see a path along the hillside where men women and children walked, carrying everything from bags of plastic dishes to refrigerators and stoves. The heavier pieces were slung with ropes over their backs. All of a sudden a man rushed past us, going in the opposite way of the cordoned line-up. A customs guard caught up with the man and struck him with his baton across the hip. The man went down and the Spanish guard began beating him with two-handed strokes on the legs, arms and back. When he finished a couple of others dragged the bloodied man away. The guard then looked at Ellen and me and asked why we were there. When we explained that we were going into Morocco he smiled and said that we were in the wrong line-up. He then pointed to a booth for foreigners, on the other side of the fence.

It turns out that Ceuta is the spot where Moroccans choose to try and become illegal European aliens. It had been my first baton beating. I choked back a little vomit, smiled bravely then led Ellen towards the foreigners entry line-up.
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