Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Ceuta Border

I was intrigued by Stephen Lazer's post on Spain's wall between its Ceuta enclave and Morocco simply because I just walked across that border Saturday morning, and found it easier than crossing between the United States and Canada. I was planning to write a post about how Spain apparently doesn't believe in border security! Basically what happened was on the Moroccan side they took my passport behind a little divide, presumably to check my visa in their system or something, then sent me on my way. Lugging my two suitcases and backpack I was waved through the actual border and the Spanish side without any questions, forms or inspections of any kind. It was a little weird.

Now it was hot, I had a lot of luggage, no idea where I was staying, and no money for a taxi, so my observational skills may not have been at my best, but no one seemed to be having any difficulty whatsoever. But still, this is not really a secure border. Half an hour away is Tetouan, in the heart of Morocco's drug-producing country, and there's nothing to really stop someone from wandering across the border bearing tons of hashish or other illegal substances. I suppose people from some countries might have to get a visa first, or they wouldn't bother sneaking across, but still once you're there, you're there.

This suggests something interesting about the immigration policy in the area: It is based primarily on keeping out people rather than things. Furthermore, the treatment of people is different based on where they are from. Because I am an American, I could get away with bringing anything into Europe I wanted - at the Gibraltar/Spain border, the British guy had all the presence of a random cop walking a dull beat. If I am a Moroccan, things are probably more difficult, but even then once I have permission, I can do whatever I want. Whether this is really the best way to run the system is probably open to debate. As it is, I would not be surprised to find that Ceuta is awash in illegal smuggling activity but that Spain is functionally indifferent while they try to figure out how to keep out economic migrants.


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