About Fikrun

    Fikrun wa Fann was a cultural magazine published by the Goethe Institute from 1963 to 2016 that supported and shaped the cultural exchange between Germany and Islamic countries. Together with the publishing of the last issue, “Flight and Displacement” (issue 105), in autumn of 2016 the maintenance and updating of this online portal was ceased.

    Death as a Weapon
    Migrants and Their Dreams

    The city of Tangier in northern Morocco is one big waiting room for people wanting to reach Europe from Africa. Alfred Hackensberger spoke to migrants there and asked them how they imagine life in Europe, how they pass the time in Morocco, and how they try – generally without success – to get to Europe.

    Every day, I drive past them in my car on my way to school, the shops, the city centre, or the beach. Every time I stop at a red light, they are there, knocking on my window: young men with sad faces, pointing to their mouths, telling me they are hungry; young mothers pointing to the babies on their backs, telling me they need milk. They come from Nigeria, Cameroon, Mali, or Chad, but also from Syria and Pakistan, and are now swelling the ranks of the army of professional beggars on the streets of this port city. Most migrants openly admit that they want to get to Spain from Tangier. The few who claim to be looking for work in Morocco are afraid. This is understandable. After all, the trip they are planning across the Straits of Gibraltar is illegal, and they are afraid of getting into trouble with the police, who don’t as a rule handle them with kid gloves and can unexpectedly bundle them off to Rabat, Casablanca, or Marrakesh without batting an eye. But there is little point in making such false claims in Tangier. People just react with a weary smile. Everyone knows why these foreigners are here.

    For more than twenty years now, this Mediterranean city of more than one million inhabitants on the northernmost tip of the African continent has been a springboard for migrants heading for Europe. Although it is the most reliable route, it has largely been forgotten in recent times. Libya is the current magnet: from here, thousands of migrants take their lives in their hands and set off across the sea for Italy. Hundreds of them will never see land again. How long Libya will remain a transit country depends on how the civil war there progresses. In any case, the gateway from Libya will only be open temporarily, just as it was in Mauritania and Senegal. When Europe piles on the pressure, local security forces will at some point batten down the hatches and the flood of migrants will gradually become a trickle.

    The situation in Tangier is different. From here, Europe is not hundreds of nautical miles away; here, only fourteen kilometres separate the two continents. Although Morocco’s police and military prevent virtually all refugee boats from reaching the open seas, the short trip is so attractive that migrants just keep on coming here, regardless of how big or small the chances are of reaching the northern shore of the Mediterranean. According to the Tangier office of the Catholic aid agency Caritas, about 20,000 people have hunkered down in the northern part of the country, waiting for the chance to make their European dream come true. But the true figure is probably higher. After all, this is only the number of people who have registered with Caritas, something that not all migrants do. Also, for the residents of Tangier, of whom I am one, there seem to be more migrants here now than ever before. Ten or fifteen years ago they lived in cheap guesthouses in the city’s old quarter; there were also a few camps outside the city. Today, they are forced to live on the outskirts of Tangier, where there are countless open-air camps. One reason for the increase in numbers is the fact that the route to Europe via Tangier is by far the least dangerous one. Libya is in the grip of civil war, and any attempt to cross the full breadth of the Mediterranean in rickety, overcrowded boats is nothing short of suicide.

    The dream of paradise

    On a clear, sunny day, you can see the coast of the Iberian peninsula from Boulevard Pasteur in the centre of Tangier. It seems so close, just a short hop away. And that’s not far from the truth: the high-speed ferry across the strait takes just half an hour. But in order to get a ticket for the ferry, passengers need a Western passport or a valid Schengen visa. Naturally, the migrants have neither. Many of them applied for visas for Germany, France, or Britain before they left their home countries, but got nothing. This is why they have come to Tangier to row across the straits to Spain in inflatable dinghies. The crossing is not without its dangers, but they don’t care: ‘After all, that’s where everything good is; that’s where a different, better life begins,’ they say. ‘That’s where there is lots of work, good training. Anyone who is willing to work hard can get rich and marry a beautiful woman or a wealthy man.’ That is their dream of paradise, the dream of the North as a place of unlimited opportunity, that demands discipline but guarantees stability and prosperity. They have heard of a crisis in Europe, but, as 21-year-old Kerdal from Cameroon says, ‘It’s only the lazy who don’t find work.’ This view is unanimously shared by the other migrants.

    These are sobering dreams, at least for us Europeans. We have a much less paradisaical view of ‘our North’. We moan about our achievement-oriented society and long to flee its constraints and obligations. We want to get out of this sterile world, where everything has become replaceable, nothing is authentic any more, and even our private lives are dictated by the laws of the market. Not everyone would put it like that, but it is there: that feeling of unease that stimulates our yearning for distant shores. The crisis might have changed the situation in Greece, Portugal, or Spain. There, the unemployed are happy to find any kind of a job, to feed their families, and get medical care for them. For that, people are once again willing to accept without complaint the ‘capitalist estrangement’ they may have complained about in years gone by.

    The yearnings of the Germans, the British, or the French have a different focus, namely the ‘South’: Spain, Morocco, Thailand, or the Caribbean. The South stands not only for sun, sea, and strand, it also stands for vivacity, pleasure, sensuality, eroticism, friendliness, openness, relaxation and all manner of other things. These are seen as the ingredients that make for a better, more beautiful life. It is certainly the polar opposite of overcrowded underground trains and congested roads on an early-morning commute, bad-tempered bosses, traffic wardens scribbling parking tickets, the mad dash around the supermarket after work, the incessant stress, and the barely affordable mortgage repayments.

    Desires usually develop diametrically to reality. People desire what they do not have. The things that seem to be missing are raised above the everyday routine, indeed they are hypostatised and charged with clichés and stereotypes: to put it simply, the South is seen as the place where the winds of freedom blow and life is still worth living. But anyone who takes the plunge and moves to sunnier climes quickly realises that the oh-so-friendly ‘natives’ don’t actually smile from dawn till dusk and that they too have to get up at seven o’clock to go to work. Moreover, bureaucracy here is so dogged by corruption that many a German immigrant yearns for the once so despised civil servants back home. Life abroad is at least as easy or as difficult as it is at home.

    I have been living outside Germany (Lebanon, Morocco, Spain) for more than fifteen years now, and travel a lot for work. After such a length of time, you put the déjà-vu of initial disillusionment behind you. You know what you have let yourself in for, you plan in advance, and would never take an uncalculated risk as the migrants do. Living in different cultural contexts means that many things are no longer as important as they used to be. There is no such thing as a dream country. Foreign parts, as exotic as they might sound, are just different from back home. Whether you feel at home there or not depends entirely on your personal preferences. But it is easy for us Europeans to say ‘personal preferences’. It is easy for us to go to our chosen paradise. We can travel to paradise, and if we don’t like it there we can turn our backs on it or even replace it with another. The passport of an EU citizen makes it all possible.

    When dreams collapse

    Things are completely different for the migrants in Tangier. Their journey is usually a one-off; their whole livelihood depends on it. The migrants are risking their lives and the assets of their families. The success of their mission to emigrate always hangs by a thread; it can come to an abrupt end at any minute. They can be robbed or murdered on their trek through the desert. Once in Morocco, their entire belongings can quite easily be stolen. The journey is particularly grim for women: they are exposed to incessant harassment, and many are raped. And at the end of it all comes the last major step: the Mediterranean crossing that can cost them their lives. Even if they do overcome all these hurdles – something that can take years – what awaits them on the other side, in Europe?

    The awakening is a rude one. After all, the dreams that the migrants take with them have nothing in common with the European reality into which they are plunged. What follows are long months in detention facilities or residences where they are condemned to inactivity, at the end of which they could be deported. Even if they are allowed to stay, the threat of unemployment looms large. With a bit of luck, they can keep their heads above water doing odd jobs here and there. They might end up selling imitation designer handbags, music CDs and films, or they turn to begging again, like they used to do in Tangier. The migrants are not interested in hearing about poor future prospects. As far as they are concerned, these are only stories about ‘losers’. Every one of them believes that they will do things much better and have much better luck than everyone else. For more than fifteen years I have been hearing the same thing from migrants, over and over again. I never cease to be amazed, not so much by their dream of Europe, but more by the vehemence with which they block out reality. But maybe that’s the way it has to be if you want to withstand all the hardships.

    ‘Europe needs immigration, but only highly skilled workers. Most of the people coming primarily from Africa are not highly skilled,’ says Carmen González Enríquez, a migration researcher at the Real Instituto Elcano in Madrid, who has worked on research projects on immigration commissioned by the EU. Even at their unskilled level, very few migrants find jobs. They don’t meet the current requirements of the labour market. ‘Europe does have a demographic problem,’ she adds, ‘but this problem cannot be solved by the refugees and migrants who have been landing in Italy and elsewhere for several months now.’

    But the migrants are not thinking about demographics and labour market opportunities. Their view of Europe is shaped by what they have seen on the Internet and on television. ‘What you see in the documentaries and series is great. I was impressed by that,’ says Kerdal with a broad grin. He can hardly contain his excitement about the promised land. He is grinning like a Cheshire cat, beaming like a child on Christmas Eve. About two years ago, he says, he decided to go to Europe. In this respect, he is not that different from a German man who is so taken by films about nature and the outdoors life in Canada that he decides to travel there. The 21-year-old Cameroonian tells me that his father died a long time ago and he no longer has any brothers or sisters. His mother now lives alone on the family farm in Cameroon. Every day since he said his last goodbyes six months ago she has been waiting for him to call her from Europe. ‘This day will soon dawn,’ says a confident Kerdal, who wants to be a professional footballer and play for Real Madrid in Spain. ‘I’m a great right-back,’ he tells me. Kerdal is not the only man in the refugee camp near Tangier Airport who dreams of being a professional soccer player. About fifty men and women from Nigeria, Cameroon, Mali, Gambia, Guinea, and the Ivory Coast sleep out here in the open air. A bonfire has been lit beneath a group of trees. Beside it are large plastic containers full of water that have been laboriously carried here from a nearby well. Very few of the migrants here have a mattress. ‘That’s not a problem in the summer,’ says Kerdal. ‘But we need a roof over our heads for the winter, whatever happens.’

    Wael also plays defence on the football pitch. ‘But on the left,’ emphasises the 19-year-old, who also hails from Cameroon. He wants to go not to Real Madrid but to Belgium, to play for FC Anderlecht. ‘I don’t know why, but that has always been my dream club,’ he says. Then there is Mohammed from Mali, who wants to try out for FC Barcelona. As soon as he arrives in Spain, the 17-year-old assures me, he will get on a train to Barcelona. And there’s no question about it: Mohammed will immediately sign on the dotted line for Lionel Messi’s club. ‘These are not dreams,’ says Mohammed emphatically. Kerdal and Wael agree. They seem slightly annoyed; I was foolish enough to say how difficult it is to get a contract with Barcelona. ‘We are all good enough to make it as professionals.’ It is plain to see that their enthusiasm for the European dream – for the talented and hard-working, everything is possible – is profound and absolutely unshakeable. But I try nonetheless, asking whether a career as a professional soccer player is worth risking their lives and their families’ savings. ‘What kind of stupid question is that?’ an irritated Mohammed replies. ‘Of course it is. Otherwise we wouldn’t be here.’ They would do anything for success, adds Kerdal. After a while, it becomes clear what they mean by success: they’re thinking of fast cars, a big apartment, good food, and lots of fans. And they freely admit this. They are thinking of the life of a football star. ‘With lot of girls, of course,’ adds Wael. These young men are no different from young men in Berlin, Dortmund or Munich.

    We are surrounded by Johnny, Ammadou, Sidi, Moses, and Fernando. None of them is older than twenty-five. Once in Europe, they want to become engineers, doctors, artists, or work as electricians or bricklayers on construction sites. They want to go to France, Germany, Holland or Sweden, depending on where they have friends and family, where their favourite football club is, or where their favourite television programme is set. Their goals are rather arbitrary. All that matters is that they are in Europe! There, university is better and free of charge. There, there are plenty of well-paid jobs on construction sites, and self-employed electricians can earn an absolute fortune in next to no time. Johnny and Fernando spent years saving for the journey, as did Jeffrey, an English teacher from Nigeria, who joins the group. ‘Do you know how hard that is?’ says Jeffrey. ‘Here, the money you scrimped and saved just slips through your fingers.’ Just a month ago, he wanted to have his wife and her baby smuggled over the border to Ceuta, one of two Spanish enclaves on Moroccan territory, along with Melilla. But they were caught. People traffickers generally demand between €1,500 and €2,500 per person. Prior to this, Jeffrey and his family had tried to reach Ceuta by motorboat. But a patrol ship of the Guardia Civil, the Spanish police, discovered them and towed them back into Moroccan waters. Jeffrey doesn’t want to say how much all of this cost, but it must be several thousand euros. The three others – Ammadou, Sidi and Moses – got the money for their journey from thei father, brother, and uncle. All of them had to sell something – a herd or a house – to raise the money. Moses’ father took out a mortgage on his land. ‘Everything is expensive,’ says Sidi. ‘The journey to Tangier alone cost more than €300. Then there is the cost of living here, and if you have to pay a smuggler, things get really expensive.’

    They are all spending a lot of money on their dream: some €3,000, others €10,000. Enough, in any case, to establish a new livelihood for themselves in their native countries. It is not the poorest of the poor, as many would like to think, who are making their way to Europe. ‘That has never been the case,’ says the Spanish migration specialist González Enríquez. ‘The poorest of the poor couldn’t afford the expensive trip.’ Nor is it the case – as people in Europe or the West assume – that there is a direct link between poverty and migration, and that most migrants come from the poorest regions. The opposite is in fact the case. The more a poor country develops, the more people emigrate, not the other way around. ‘You see,’ says González Enríquez, ‘the more highly developed the state, the more “capital” people get to use in another country. This includes skills such as a trade or a craft, the ability to speak foreign languages, or a degree. There is more education, more information, more networking, and above all, more money to pay for the trip. Those who do not have anything cannot travel. It’s as simple as that.’

    In the camp close to the airport, there is a discussion about inflatable dinghies, which are seen as the key to success. ‘I need a dinghy! A dinghy!’ shouts a euphoric Kerdal, as if he’s had one too many. ‘Then I’ll be over there like a shot, and everything will be fine!’ Fernando, Mohammed, Sidi, and all the others nod eagerly and murmur, ‘Yeah, man, that’s how to do it.’ They’re not talking about professional boats fit for the high seas, but leisure boats that you can buy in every major supermarket in Tangier. They cost about €80. But for people from sub-Saharan Africa, they are very difficult to come by. Everyone knows that they want to use them to cross the straits. Sometimes the police are called. The maximum weight for passengers in these dinghies is 250 kg. But on the crossing to the paradise that is Europe, no one pays any attention to details like that: instead, up to seven people cram into a dinghy. Once at sea, the migrants hope to be able to use the trick on which all those making the crossing rely: ‘You call the Spanish Red Cross and ask for help for a boat in distress,’ explains Kerdal. ‘It’s as easy as that.’ The only thing is that the ‘trick’ doesn’t always work. The Red Cross only has one ship patrolling the coast, and is rarely nearby. Instead, the Moroccan Navy fishes the migrants out of the water and brings them back to dry land. A bit of good fortune in an unfortunate situation, you might say. After all, if no one comes to their aid, they can easily drift out into the Atlantic and that will be the end of them. But they don’t care about that. ‘Death or Europe’ is their motto, as all of them say. The Red Cross ship is and will remain the great hope for everyone willing to attempt the reckless Mediterranean crossing.

    A human tragedy

    All the migrants in Tangier believe it is only a question of time and personal fate until they slip through the eye of the needle into paradise. The reality, however, is very different indeed. ‘They have reached a dead end and can move neither forward nor back,’ says Archbishop Santiago Agrelo Martínez, in a sun-drenched courtyard of the Archdiocese of Tangier. He is all too familiar with the fate of the migrants, from the work of Caritas, which is headquartered in the basement of the cathedral and has been taking care of migrants for decades. ‘There’s hardly any way to get to the Iberian peninsula any more,’ he assures me. Years ago, he says, the situation was very different. Martínez is talking here about the time when there was organised human trafficking involving an extensive network of criminals and police officers. However, following greater investment on both sides of the Straits of Gibraltar and a fight against corruption, those days are gone.

    In the last five years alone, Spain has spent about €250 million on securing its borders, and Morocco has been given money by the EU to seal its borders – €68 million between 2007 and 2010 alone. Today, Moroccan Navy ships patrol the Mediterranean coastline. Military staff are positioned in even the tiniest of coves to prevent boats from setting sail. These measures are having an effect. Between January and June of this year, the UN Refugee Agency registered only 920 immigrants arriving in Spain. This figure applies to the whole country. By way of comparison, in the same period, Italy and Greece recorded 54,000 and 48,000 migrants respectively. In Libya, there is hardly anyone to stop the migrants’ boats setting off for Italy. In Greece, most of the migrants come from Turkey. The many Greek islands are difficult to patrol and a large number of them are very close to the Turkish coast. So far, the authorities in Turkey have been doing very little to control the human trafficking.

    Every day, new migrants reach Morocco, even though the chances of moving even a small step closer to their dream are nil. Those with magnificent dreams have no interest in reality. ‘Some stay for ten years,’ says Archbishop Martínez. ‘They try again and again.’ Going back home is not an option for them. ‘No one wants the shame of being labelled a loser,’ he adds. ‘The social pressure is just too great when the family had to sell its herd of sheep or borrow money.’ And anyway, those who really do want to go home generally don’t have enough money for the journey. ‘It’s a tragic situation,’ he concludes. ‘These people undertake the most incredible ordeals and risk their lives.’

    The situation in Libya is very different. There, at least, there is a real chance of reaching Italy. That said, the risk of dying at sea is also much, much greater, as are the ordeal and the suffering. Those who pay the fee of between €1,000 and €2,000 are holed up with the other passengers before the journey. Depending on the capacity of the ship, this can mean between 100 and 500 people. They are locked into abandoned buildings or warehouses: men, women, and children, all crammed in together, waiting for departure. This can take days or even weeks, depending on the weather and the coastal patrols. There is a television and, if they’re lucky, more than one toilet, which doubles as a bathroom. Food is brought to them three times a day.

    ‘After one week, I only opened the door with a Doberman at my side,’ says a smuggler, who has sent dozens of boats to Italy over the years. ‘As time passed, they all went nuts and just wanted to get out, out, out. But of course that wasn’t possible.’ The smuggler who told me all this has since retired from this work. Radical Islamists began interfering in ‘his business’, creaming off 50% of the profits.

    Everyone in the camp near Tangier Airport believes that he or she has special skills that are in demand in Europe. Starting with the ‘excellent’ footballers and the students who believe they are of ‘above-average intelligence’ to the workmen who believe that no one works as well as they do. Television is their point of reference: they all saw on television that Europe needs them, that everyone gets a big chance there. ‘That’s the way it is in Europe,’ says Ammadou. ‘I’ve chatted with German people, French people, and a guy from Norway on the Internet. They all told me that it isn’t easy, but that with strength and a will to work hard, you can achieve anything,’ Ammadou assures me several times over. ‘I will work till I drop, even if that means 24 hours a day.’ Nobody, he says, can stop him. He tells me he is certain that the people in Europe will help him and that he will find happiness there.

    What is this? Naïvety, stupidity, a lack of information? It’s certainly not the last. Everyone has access to the Internet and television, just like the rest of the world. But what is it that motivates Ammadou, Kerdal, and all the others to leave their entire lives behind them? They all had work, a family, a house or a flat. They may not have been rich, but they had enough to eat, a roof over their heads, and the children could go to school. But suddenly, none of this matters any more. They turn their backs on it all and set off on a journey of several thousand kilometres. Among those who make this journey are pregnant women, babies and growing children. Some are threatened and robbed; women are raped. And they know before they set out that all of this can happen. Once in Tangier, they live in cramped rooms with four or more people in conditions of questionable hygiene. Those who are not so lucky end up sleeping in the open air. Day after day, they beg on the streets. They can be picked up by the Moroccan police at any time. They never know whether they will reach Europe. And still they hold on tight to their dreams.

    González Enríquez, the migration expert, calls them ‘economic migrants who want to come to Europe to work and to earn more money than they do at home.’ This may be true, and may even apply to the Syrians here in Tangier. ‘We fled the civil war to Turkey,’ says Yussef from Aleppo on the promenade in Tangier. But they didn’t like it in Turkey. ‘Being safe from the war is all very well,’ says the 35-year-old father, ‘but we want more. I want my children to get a good education; I want a decent salary so I can offer my family a good future. No matter what the cost!’ Yussef is living neither in a camp beneath the trees nor in one of the tiny apartments without electricity and water, like the people who have come from sub-Saharan Africa. He’s living in a hotel and hopes to be in Ceuta with his family very soon. ‘The smuggler is very expensive, but he’s good. Once we’re in Ceuta, our new life will begin.’ Yussef knows that a Syrian family will get asylum in Spain, something that is not possible for those from sub-Saharan Africa. They have the same dream as Yussef, but the wrong passport. Yussef felt that the Libyan route was just too dangerous, which is why he, like thousands of his compatriots, came to Morocco. ‘A flight from Turkey to Algeria,’ explains Yussef. ‘That’s the usual route.’

    Giving up everything

    There is no doubt about it: they can all be described as economic migrants. But this explanation falls short of the truth. Of course they are looking for work and want to earn more money than they do back home. But there is another element too: they are following a dream, just like other people – unrealistic dreams that are full of clichés. They have every right to do so. This is their dream, and they are willing to sacrifice everything for it. For us Europeans, this is very hard to understand. We just grab our passports and make our dreams come true. If we so desire, we just get on a plane to Jamaica, Kenya, Australia, Brazil, or the Virgin Islands. Then we can do whatever we want: smoke pot, have sex, see sights, go on safari, surf the waves, take a boat trip down the Amazon... For normal people from Niger, Chad or Sudan, this simply isn’t possible. But they want that, too; they don’t just want to dream it. The wealthy elite in their countries can do it; they can fly to Paris, London, or New York.

    Migrants no longer accept that they are condemned to live in Africa, where they have no opportunities. ‘We can work as hard as we like,’ says an angry Jimmy from Nigeria, who is living in a guesthouse in Tangier. ‘My wife is a nurse, and she was earning 100 dollars a month. You can just about survive on that, but that’s all. And don’t get me started about my salary as a waiter.’ Both of them are now in Tangier, determined to change all that. ‘I want one of those fantastic salaries in a British hospital,’ explains Karin, his wife. ‘Then we can start thinking about having children.’ The couple feel as if they have no future, excluded from all that is lovely and good in this world.

    By emigrating, they want at long last to get for themselves the things they are denied. It is an act of rebellion on several levels. Europe will only take them in if they are victims of political persecution or fleeing an armed conflict. As people who just want to go where they please, however, they are not accepted. This right to freedom of movement is denied them. People would understand if they were the victim of an emergency situation. After all, that fits the eurocentric stereotype: Africans have to be suffering in order for us to help them. Anything else is too much to comprehend. Without the misery and the destitution, they are not distinctive enough for the do-gooders of Europe, and so they should kindly just stay at home, thanks very much. ‘Where would we be if all of Africa were to come here,’ people in Germany say – and not just out-and-out racists either. The protests by outraged residents of districts where migrant hostels are to be set up speak volumes. ‘Niggers’ and Arabs are not allowed to travel, and certainly not to work wherever they like. ‘Yes, where would we be?’

    But the vast majority of migrants are not people who are in acute need. They are just exercising their rights. Whatever the price. And that is their weapon. With no regard for their health or safety, they clamber into rickety old tubs that no reasonable person would set foot in. But it must be said once again: the migrants are not driven by their ‘hopeless, miserable fate’, as is often written in the press. No. They manoeuvre themselves voluntarily into this situation and are responsible for it. They know, right from the word go, that they could die. Just like they know that they will run out of money, at the very latest by the time they reach Europe. And that is the next provocation. ‘Europe has to help us,’ say Ammadou and Kerdal in Tangier, as if this were the most natural thing in the world. But why? Europeans can only shake their heads in disbelief at such statements. I would never travel abroad these days if it were certain before I left that I would run out of money. And it would never occur to me to expect, let alone demand, money or assistance from the Turkish, Belgian, or Kenyan government. ‘No, Europe alone is not responsible for the misery in Africa,’ says Ammadou. The African governments have a share in the responsibility, he says. ‘We are systematically excluded, and we only want what we are entitled to.’

    The migrants are breaking conventions. The message is clear: we are all the same; so kindly treat us like normal people, just as you do each other in Europe! We have the same rights! So kindly save us when we go to sea and get into trouble. Kindly support us and help us build new lives for ourselves once we reach your shores. This is a narrative that people do not want to hear. To a certain extent, the migrants have rendered Europe helpless. What should the EU do with the many thousands of immigrants? Nothing seems to be stopping the flood of migrants, who are willing to put their lives at risks in an almost kamikaze manner. The full extent of current European helplessness is illustrated by the fact that there have been suggestions to send intervention forces to Libya, and even to bomb the country. The aim would be to put the trafficking networks and their fleets out of action. The only thing is that these well-organised trafficking services, which are being held responsible for the whole migrant mess, don’t even exist. Not one of the migrants in Tangier paid smugglers who convinced them in their home countries to climb into a truck and try their luck in Europe. This is a fairytale that is being used to mask the real reasons for immigration. Instead of convincing themselves and the public of something, the politicians should concede that we are dealing here with people who want to enjoy the same freedom of movement as we Europeans do. That would be the first decisive step. Then we could start thinking about how to react to this situation. Dreams cannot be halted by bombs or ever-higher border fences alone.

    After a few days, Kerdal and Wael have found a solution to their dinghy problem. A Moroccan has said that he is willing to buy one for them in the Marjane Supermarket. They hope that he really will buy one and not just run off with their money. As soon as he delivers the boat, they want to set off. They want to set sail from Cape Spartel, the point where the Mediterranean and the Atlantic meet. They already have paddles for the five others who will be coming with them. If they are caught, nothing much will happen to them. They will be brought to the police station and the police will take their details. Two or three hours later, they will be released again. And then it’s back to square one. How can Kerdal and Wael get hold of another dinghy?
    Alfred Hackensberger (b. 1959) is a journalist and writer. He lives in Tangier and works, among other things, as a correspondent for the German daily Die Welt. His most recent publication was the thriller Letzte Tage in Beirut [Last days in Beirut].

    Translated by Aingeal Flanagan

    Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Fikrun wa Fann
    June 2016
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