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Swimming - for lack of other options

When did you start swimming?

  • (A.) At 12 pm

Where did you start?

  • (A.) In Beni Ensar. There were a lot of waves and I was swimming. I swam for a long time. I arrived in Melilla at 4:30 in the morning. Balearia was arriving too and was making a lot of waves.

Paradoxically, Balearia, the ferry company by which some privileged people in the world can move freely from one side of the strait to the other, says on its website #Mevoyseguro (“I go safely”).

Those who are not within that group risk their lives and swim in the sea in their aspiration for safety.

The story is Ahmed’s, a kid who came swimming to Melilla in August. During his open waters journey, he lost his phone, all his documents and everything he had on him to continue his migration process in Melilla. Right now his belongings have added to the long list of aberrations to which the Mediterranean is witness daily. The only way to escape will once again be the sea.

His mother lives in Barcelona. But that does not give him the right to migrate safely. Whether he has documents or not. Every day, in our activities in Melilla, we witness the institutional racism that prevents people from accessing their rights.

Due to the border closure last March, most of the kids who have been making it into Melilla during this time have done so by swimming into the city. On many occasions they are children, minors who are migrating alone.

They not only face the waves and the danger of the sea, but also the authorities ‑ both Moroccan and Spanish.

A few days ago, Youssef, an 18-year-old kid, told us that in July 2020 he tried to swim to Melilla. He had been living in Nador for more than a year, working in whatever he could to save some money. He estimates that he had been swimming for an hour. That time, he says, the Spanish police (Guardia Civil) discovered him just off the coast of Nador, still in Moroccan waters. He says that a Guardia Civil police rib found him, taking him back to Moroccan land. Other kids also say that, at times, they have been found by the police and made to swim back to Moroccand land while the police rib went beside them, yelling at them to continue.

On his second attempt, in August, he left shore at 3 in the morning with another kid. He estimates they were swimming for 4-5 hours: "About an hour into the sea, towards deep waters, two hours off the coast of Melilla, and one more hour to reach the shore again".

He says that they do not go too far from the coast so that they always have the lights of the ports as a reference and don’t lose sight of them so as not to get disoriented. He knows about kids who, to avoid the police, go too far into the sea and become disoriented and lost, and they never come out again.



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