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Children should not have to risk their lives in order to aspire to live better.

Children should not die.

But a child has died.

He has been crushed by the only crack in the trap he lived in.

And living in a trap is not living.

Photo: Ana G.

Abdoulah was 16 years old and migrated alone. This detail turns him into a Spanish acronym, M.E.N.A., an unaccompanied foreign minor, which lacks the taste of childhood, devouring, in a dirty game of the language, his history, his name and any hint of empathy comparable to that generated by any other European and white child, who, if disappeared or involved in an accident, garner immense media attention for months.

Someone calls him a "MENA" and suddenly, his pre-adolescent gait, the crooked tooth that makes his smile recognisable, the identity of the child from Agadir, motherless, and a son of hope, becomes progressively blurred. A child who, less than two months ago, filled his lungs with as much air as he could to jump into the water in Beni Enzar and swim relentlessly to Melilla, which is Spain.

Spain, which is Europe.

Europe which searches for itself without finding it in the modernist mirrors of Melilla, a city that, in barely 12 kilometres and 4 border crossings, legally traps people on the move. Without rushing.

In fact, if Melilla were Europe, the center for minors would process the documentation that recognizes that Abdoulah exists and that he is in Spanish soil within the maximum legally stipulated period (9 months). But this doesn’t happen. And when it happens it’s celebrated, because it happens it so rarely happens...

If Melilla were Europe, registering would be as simple as it is in other regions, and would open the door to fundamental rights. The city would not have to an endless list of short- and long-term residents without a "legal existence" and therefore without schooling or health care rights, many of them homeless, living on its streets, without a future and looking sideways, as long as their body size allows it, at “risky” as the only possible escape.

Risky: From the word, "risk". Any attempt by children from Morocco, living on the streets (those who call themselves "Harragas") to reach the mainland by hiding, in many ways, inside the boats which connect the two shores.

In other border areas it is called by other names, such as game, but it always entails the same danger.

Photo: Mae Bachir

Abdoulah lost his life trying to win a better one.

He was doing “risky” with another friend. They jumped from a building, which incidentally houses the courts of the autonomous city, into the port where the Melilla-Malaga ferry was docked, which would leave from there at 23:45 that night, like Cinderella's carriage.

Like every evening, they hide. They know how to wait. They have watched for hours each boat and its ritual, inside and outside the port. In contemplation, sometimes self-absorbed, it is inevitable to make a game of mental mirrors with the passengers who, middle class, suitcase in one hand, telephone distracted on the other, trivialize the act of passing the security controls in a routine that devalues its weight. They were only born on different sides of the same border, it could be the case that they lived only a few metres apart, and yet the classification given by their identification documents determines the human rights to which each one of them "must be able to aspire to".

We do not know if Abdoulah was afraid or if he had overcome it through repetitions marked by collective euphoria, if he was worried about growing up and exhausting his possibilities of camouflage because he could not fit in the possible hiding places, if he had already managed to sneak onto a ship on the way to the mainland through other routes: inside a scrap truck (holding its pressing weight with his feet), crouched under a truck... And how he would digest the feeling of being thrown out by the police when he was found in his hiding place.

Making it onto the ferry, even if it was only one of them, is a collective victory, the certainty that hope is not hollow and that it is possible to reach mainland soil, however hard this new stage may be.

This time the attempt was half flight-half swim: Jump into the sea. Wait in the water, cold and nervous, waiting for the ideal moment to enter the port and try to climb inside the ferry . Hide in a safe area free from controls. They are few. They are unsafe...

It did not happen. Only they know what happened, in what order, and with how much anguish.

What has officially been reported so far is that Abdoulah was accidentally hit on the head by a small boat entering the dock, which caused him to lose consciousness and, from there, possibly drown. The case is still being investigated by the police. From its side, and in light of the contradictory versions among Abdoulah's colleagues and the authorities, the Nador section of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights has called for an investigation into the causes of Abdoulah's death.

It is important to clarify how. A child should not die. Nobody in this way.

The pain in his body and his way of being pulled out of the water, already as a corpse.

The anguish of his swimming companion,

unable to be believed when asking for help,

sadly trustworthy and reliable when giving the family the bad news.

And to worry about their repatriation.

Abdoulah's death is not a fortuitous death, it is one more unjust death.

We do not know how many. It is difficult to count the numbers among the "invisible numbers" and the many traces of children's faces that are lost.

Abdoulah did not choose to die, he risked it in order to live.

His is not just another accidental death, but the consequence of a legislation that, among continuous legal obstacles, makes it really impossible for foreign unaccompanied minors to obtain the documentation that allows them to leave Melilla towards other regions legally.

That is why, overcome by hope, desperation and sometimes by drugs that make them forget their fear, they find in the dangerous practice of "risky" the only formula to try.

On rare occasions they succeed.

On many occasions they are injured.

The child Abdoulah paid for the attempt with his life.

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