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November 20, 2013
November 20, 2013

Spain: 12 km of barbed wire and blades encircling the European dream

Source: El Diario  Category: Borders
This article is also available in: elesit
Spain: 12 km of barbed wire and blades encircling the European dream

The triple fence of Melilla that separate the autonomous city from Morocco. Photograph by J. Blasco de Avellaneda.

We describe below each of the risky obstacles that a migrant comes across with, when attempting to jump the triple fence 6m high separating Melilla and Morocco.

The Melilla fence is in fact a metal fence, a physical barrier separating Morocco and the Spanish city of Melilla, whose sole purpose is to hinder irregular migration.

It is made out of steel wire and its initial cost was around €33 million. Its construction began in 1998, first as a single fence and finally as two parallel fences 3m high, reaching 6m in 2005 after the so-called “Crisis of the fence”. In 2007, a third 3m high obstacle was added between them, known as “three-dimensional tow-line”.


View of the fence of Melilla from the side of Morocco. Photo by J.Blasco de Avellaneda

These metal walls of about 12 klm are not the actual boundary between Spain and Morocco. They were built on Spanish ground along the ML-300 motorway, known as ‘ring’.

From Morocco, whoever wants to enter Melilla has to cross a ring motorway, a double barbed wire fence, a 2m deep and 4m wide ditch and, finally, a security zone with additional security forces and checkpoints before running into the fence.

Once in front of it, the barrier consists of a gigantic fence of about 7m high, tilted up 10 degrees towards Morocco, with barbed wire or blades at first height, anti-climbing grids at half height and it is topped by steel strapping that prevents the support of ladders and that makes the top of the fence unstable and difficult to trespass.

If someone manages to get past, before reaching the second 6m high fence, one has to cross the three-dimensional tow-line, a net of steel cables secured in different heights, ranging from 1 to 3m high, which stretches when stepped on, prohibiting thus the pass and making the use of ladders and the positioning of blankets impossible.


View of the three-dimensional tow-line of the fence of Melilla. Photo by J.Blasco de Avellaneda

These physical measures are used in combination with technological measures, such as an early warning system that goes off whenever someone leans on the outside of the fence; the use of blinding lights activated by the external alarm; a system of mobile cameras that focus automatically to the point where the movement has been detected, a system of warning lights and sirens that pinpoint, visually and by sound, to the place where the suspect movement has been identified; or a pepper spray system, which, despite remaining installed, has never come to use because it is most likely to cause serious injury against exhausted and, in many cases, suffering from respiratory diseases, people.

Once past the fence, the migrant faces the police and Civil Guard helicopters, the surveillance towers installed every 500m and the patrols on the ring road who are equipped with thermal night vision goggles.

A wall, which should be virtually impassable, is being constantly trespassed by those fleeing poverty and struggling to survive.

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