New blades to stop migrants in Melilla

melilla 333Rajoy government has decided to restore las cuchillas, the blades, on six of the nine-kilometer border that separates Melilla, a Spanish enclave since 1497, from the Moroccan hinterland. Introduced by Zapatero in 2005 and removed partially two years later because of the numerous protests, the blades were replaced with a third wire fence and motion detection systems that costed about 30 million euros.

Despite the imposing measures taken, in 2013 more than three thousand people have tried to go pass the barbed wire, amid the bullets of the police of both countries. On the night of November 5 , two hundred migrants have tried their chances by climbing on the net, even higher, more thickened and guarded, to enter the Schengen area. According to the Spanish government delegation’s reports, a hundred people have managed to pass, forty were arrested, four were injured and a young sub-Saharan died after falling from six meters .

In spite of the heavy criticism by the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Nils Muižnieks, Madrid now allocates new funds to prevent migrants to cross the border. In addition to reintroducing the blades and strengthening the fence with the "malla antitrepa ", a thin metal mesh that prevents from putting one’s fingers in the net for climbing, the government also intends to equip the Civil Guard with a second helicopter and set up two Mobile Departments to monitor the border. In Ceuta, on the other hand, where the majority of the migrants try to access by sea, there are plans to enlarge the pier. As reported by Spanish newspaper El Pais, Muižnieks described the construction of the walls as "ineffective and costly", explaining that the installation of blades will not stop the arrivals , but "will only cause more despair".

melilla 200In a statement posted on the web, Accem (an NGO based in Madrid and works with asylum-seekers, refugees and persons at risk of social exclusion) denounced the government's decision criticizing it as useless and harmful: "These fences, built with wire and blades are, for Accem, a clear symbol of border policy adopted by the European Union, obsessed with the idea to protect the land and build an impenetrable fortress as the only possible way to curb illegal immigration".

Instead of continuing to invest in these defensive strategies, the NGO proposes an approach of “cooperation with the countries of origin, through appropriate information on the real opportunities in destination countries of migration flows, the risks of the journey, as well as a deep and effective involvement of the entire international community in the fight against poverty".

Defending and protecting human rights is a "non-negotiable commitment" for the association, which defines the use of barriers on national borders as in Melilla "a serious attack on human rights and dignity".

melilla 333bisXavier Ferrer, a researcher at the Department of Geography at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, on his blog criticizes hardly this return to the past:

"The wire with the blades inclosed the Melilla fence until the reform in 2007. It was removed because it was considered harmful. But now it will be restored. With the imminent launch of Eurosur, the technologically advanced and highly sophisticated new “system of the systems” of border surveillance in the European Union, the reintroduction of the blades on the perimeter of Melilla represents a wonderful return to the origins of the dark tradition of fortification. We are witnessing a vibrant mix of innovation and tradition serving a single objective: the immobilization of the people on the borders of the Union".



Federica Araco

Translated from Italian by Övgü Pınar









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