Oct 24, 2005
Eleven people, including a baby, were killed during attempts by hundreds of Africans to breach the 10-foot wooden fences surrounding the towns of Ceuta and Melilla in Morocco. These deaths on the coast of the Mediterranean were headline news in Europe.
Tens of thousands of Africans risk their lives crossing the Saharan desert from the poorest countries on earth, trying to escape hunger, civil war and worse. According to a medical group at these refugee camps, hundreds of these desperate men, women and children die each year trying to get into these towns in Spanish Morocco. They estimate at least 6,000 Africans have died at the barricades in the last ten years.
Spain held the area now called Morocco as a colony in northern Africa for more than a hundred years. Even after Moroccan independence in the 1950s, a few bits of land remained under the control of Spain although they were on the African side of the Mediterranean Sea.
Now the Spanish and Moroccan governments have sent additional soldiers to Ceuta and Melilla; they have built ever higher walls; they have even used planes to shoot at people approaching the barricades. But as one refugee told a reporter, “You are not afraid because in Africa you have nothing....”A flood of human beings risks injury and even death at this one small point of entrance to Europe. Until recently, an emigrant who got through the walls would spend a short time in a detention camp. Then the person would be set free in Spain to try to find a job. For those who have lost everything except their lives, the entry into Europe seems the only way out of this unbearable situation.
The European Union countries are demanding that the Moroccan and Libyan governments act like guard dogs. A French minister offered to fund additional police for Libya to keep track of its immigrants. Spain has already expelled some who reached Ceuta and Melilla back to Morocco. The Moroccan government not only chartered buses to force some refugees back to their country of origin. It also has pushed some of these desperate men, women and children back into the Saharan desert without food, water, or anything else to keep them alive.
By direct or indirect colonial rule, the countries of Western Europe – Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Spain and Portugal – are the ones responsible for what has become of Africa. Despite the fairy tales about bringing Christianity and civilization, the European arrival actually meant forced labor for the Africans; it meant exploiting the continent’s mineral riches and providing food for the tables of Europe while poor Africans starved. The imperialists built roads and ports and bridges using African labor solely to aid their enterprises to transport the riches they took back to Europe.
Then these colonizers left their former colonial populations in desperate straits, lacking jobs, food, health care or public education. Independence changed nothing in reality. It was still the European states and their largest companies that extracted wealth from Africa. European powers have kept the so-called “ethnic” civil wars going, sending military aid and troops to one side or another in recent years.
The European countries talk of aid to help develop Africa. But not only don’t the rich parts of the world want to give the crumbs off their tables to those coming from the poor parts of the world; they continue to add to the misery created by decades of their policies.