In the mountains of the province of Nador, those that hid hundreds of people in the days before the last jump to the Melilla fence, there is hardly any trace of the life that it sheltered. Along the streets of his city, sub-Saharan people seem to have disappeared, while the lifeless bodies of their companions remain hidden. 600 kilometers from the border province with Spain, in a peripheral neighborhood of Casablanca, behind the walls of an abandoned school, a hundred refugees and migrants are milling around impatiently to show each of the marks left on their bodies by the last entry attempt.
Surrounded by mattresses thrown on the ground and mountains of rubbish, dozens of young people raise their swollen arms, point to small circular wounds on their backs and part their hair to find one of the scars from the blows they received at the Spanish border. They cite names and surnames of friends whom they say they have seen dead. They ask to tell what happened at the Melilla fence with the anxiety of those who are not usually heard. They talk, but they seem to want to scream.
They all participated in the Melilla jump that ended the lives of at least 23 people -37 according to the balance of the NGOs-, but the Moroccan authorities forcibly put them, some wounded and unconscious, on buses bound for different locations in the center and south of the country to move them away from the border with the autonomous city. They shake their heads to narrate that they had never seen such repression before, despite the fact that many accumulate dozens of frustrated jumps over the Spanish fences.
Sitting on a rug spread out on the chipped concrete of the old school in a Casablanca slum, Mohamed Ali rests seated next to several Sudanese classmates. A white band surrounds his forehead and covers one of the signs of the blows received on the head at the Melilla border. “I do not remember anything. I lost consciousness and suddenly I was in Morocco, surrounded by ‘brothers’ lying on the ground”, says the 17-year-old teenager. His look shows tiredness, but he insists on talking. “I was bleeding a lot, but no one took me to the hospital.”
The bandage that covers Mohamed Ali’s left arm was placed days later, he says, in a church in Casablanca. “They had [las autoridades marroquíes] They should have taken me to the hospital, they should have done stitches in Nador. He was bleeding. I told the Moroccan police but the agents told me no, that they would put me on the bus, ”says the minor, surrounded by dozens of Sudanese who ask to tell his story. Mohamed left his country in August 2021 and before reaching Morocco he passed through Libya, Niger and Algeria.
His friends helped him get to Casablanca, which has become one of the meeting points for hundreds of Sudanese who tried to jump the Melilla fence on June 24. Some were unable to get past the border network and dozens of them claim to have been returned to Morocco after setting foot on Spanish soil.
While he repeats that he will try again, the wall on which the minor is leaning also seems to want to speak for them: “Until death”, say several inscriptions of this abandoned school where at least a hundred migrants and refugees live, most of them Sudanese. Without electricity or drinking water, Hamed says that he spends “days” with hardly any food and complains that “no one” helps them.
The presence of migrants and refugees is evident in the center of Casablanca, gathered in scattered groups of young people seeking to make a living by begging or odd jobs. Once past the motorway that connects with the lively Corniche promenade, its presence multiplies. Dozens of mattresses placed on the ground in the streets of this peripheral neighborhood surround the school where the Moroccan police, say the Sudanese, do not “bother” them in exchange for not going up to the south of the country.
From the different rooms that were once classrooms of this old school in ruins, more and more curious young Sudanese come out with the presence of the press.
“I fell unconscious at the border”
Ibrahim raises his hand to explain “what he saw” at the border, although he ends up telling what he could not see. “I fell unconscious at the border. I do not remember anything. I woke up in the town where they left me lying next to my companions, the next morning”, says the 27-year-old man. His face is swollen. A couple of poorly placed cottons try to protect his wounds, caused by the Moroccan police when he tried to leave behind the wire fence.
Malik Binladin points his finger one by one at the wounds on his body caused “by the Moroccan police”. He head, knees, ankles, arm. He comes from South Sudan, a country that has hardly known peace. He has been on the road for nearly a year and, before the deadliest jump over the Melilla fence, he had already tried to get around the Spanish barbed wire on several occasions, after passing through Libya.
That is why he became so nervous when, through the window of the bus that was taking him away from the Melilla border after the last jump, he identified the final destination of the vehicle: the border with Algeria. “Four of us organized ourselves to jump. We couldn’t go back, ”describes the South Sudanese, while he joins his forearms to show his wounds. He jumped with his friend Alamin from Sudan. Next to him, this 18-year-old boy nods his head and, in perfect English learned almost self-taught, says he used the fist of his hand to break one of the crystals. “We jumped with the bus running. When we saw that we were approaching, we could not consent to it. I have already been in the Algerian desert, nobody helps you and, in the state we were in, it was a matter of luck to survive or die. Already on the ground, they began to run.
Alamin asks someone to worry or ask about the companions who stayed on that bus: “We don’t know anything about them. They didn’t jump because they were so hurt. They had broken arms or legs or were semi-conscious. What has become of them? How can they treat us refugees like this?” asks the Sudanese, fleeing from the instability of Darfur.
Would you try again? Alamin smiles unsmiling. He shrugs and calmly replies: “Sure, what am I going to do if not? I want a future and I can’t find it here.” He can’t go backwards or forwards. In Morocco he does not find the protection that people of his nationality usually deserve (88% of the Sudanese who requested asylum in Spain received a positive response), but he has created his own refuge with a pen and several sheets of paper. From his pocket he takes out a small notebook written in Arabic.
He touches it and opens it carefully. She seems to have his most precious object in her hands. Some of his pages intertwine thoughts with little drawings or phone numbers: “It’s my diary. When I’m really moody, I write. When something important happens, I write. I write so that everything we are going through as refugees is not forgotten. For my teammates, but also for me.”