Border control narrative in African Spain

Ceuta and Melilla are two Spanish territories in Africa. Although they seem insignificant due to their small size, they constitute a reality that goes beyond the superficial reductions to which they are often subjected. Both, due to their equal status, are a matter of vital importance that is not given the necessary attention: not by successive governments and the media, nor by the public opinion which frequently views the problem of border control as a banality.

Furthermore, when it comes to the important role of informants – the fourth power – the lack of deepening of the news not only leads to the dehumanization of immigrants, but also to only understanding the problem of Ceuta and Melilla as a social fact, a local matter, that solely affects those populations.

Thus, the reduction of immigrants to mere “numbers” causes that the public opinion feels invaded by the high figures of assault. Its effect is beginning to be seen in the policies of neighboring European countries which are changing their politics towards greater protectionism on their borders. France, for example, decided to temporarily withdraw from Schengen after the terrorist attacks. Fear acts as a powerful weapon to move citizens. However, it is important to understand that the entry of migration is not the real problem in Spain, nor are the poor sub-Saharan African who, desperate, launch themselves in search of a better world.

The assaults are the reflection and consequence of bilateral relations and, given that Spain is part of the European Union, they are also a problem of international scope. Moreover, they are a geographical and political issue related with controlling the Mediterranean and its trade routes and gaining more territory, such as Western Sahara. They are also an economical matter because of the involvement of mafias in transporting immigrants and a security concern given the growing Islamic radicalization in Africa. Lastly, another issue brought up by the media is the conflict risen between defending the national borders and guaranteeing immigrants’ human rights. 

National security is not at any time incompatible with the promotion of values and rights of the human persona. Although it is true that the controversial fences produce wounds and cuts to whoever manages to pass through them we have to keep in mind that they were not put up so that people would jump over them but rather to discourage the massive and uncontrolled entry. In addition to this, it is worth highlighting the increasing Islamization in the Maghreb and Sahel regions, direct neighbors of Spain. The country cannot remain oblivious to this danger and allow itself to be carried away by relativism and permissiveness, which legitimize individual freedom above the duties to which citizens are committed to achieve harmonious coexistence.

On the other hand, in Spain regardless of the governing ideology increasing defense spending is not well contemplated. Thus, the budget is one of the lowest in the entire Atlantic Alliance despite repeated warnings from NATO. The Spanish population is witnessing the most peaceful period in the history of Europe and consequently has become accustomed to living without threats. However, to continue this successful peace and prosperity one must not forget the importance of keeping up to date with technological advances. When it comes to Spain, its enclaves can contribute to improving the deterrence system with much more advanced and less aggressive measures.

Therefore, we can conclude that Ceuta and Melilla concerns all aspects of society: politics and diplomacy, security, economy and human relations. Consequently, its possible solution does not fit in a single area but rather it requires the necessary collaboration from all of them. The stability of Spain or the sensitivity of those who observe the unjust images of the assailants are not the only issues at stake. Africa is a continent in full demographic development and represents the economic future of the entire world for its abundant and rich resources in raw material and minerals.

As an advanced border, the Sahel is the most unstable region in the world because it has all the risk enhancers. Engaging it the solution of their conflicts and their social, institutional and economic development is an investment that must be made on the southern border of Europe. It does not respond to naïve generosity or political idealism but to a mandatory contribution due to our total geographic interdependence and an increasingly connected and globalized world.

Leticia Benítez

Responsibility for the information and views set out in this publication lies entirely with the author.

English version: Valeria Nadal