It is the second time that Reduan, a 14-year-old Moroccan boy, has been swimming around the breakwater that marks the boundary between Ceuta and Morocco. He already did it last Monday and assures that the next day they forced him to return. This Wednesday he returned to the shore of El Tarajal in search of a brother who no longer lives in the city. Lost, barefoot and with his pink Barça uniform soaked, the military told him to wait for someone from the Red Cross to come to take care of him. The boy was shivering and begging for food.
Reduan has ended up in the ship that has been improvised in the city for the little ones. In that enclosure, where chaos has reigned for two days, the authorities have begun to test for covid and to make the affiliations of minors who, once identified, will be the responsibility of the autonomous city. Until this Wednesday afternoon, that ship had about 720 children and adolescents, according to government sources. They waited, sitting and lying on the ground, outside, in the bright sun, for them to begin to be moved to another more suitable place. Throughout the day, at least one child collapsed, exhausted. At the moment, there is, as a reception device, an enclosure of prefabricated modules in the Piniers area, but not all of them fit there. The Executive, together with the local authorities, are looking for solutions urgently, and are considering installing Army tents. This is a monumental challenge for Ceuta, a city of 85,000 inhabitants that, although accustomed to constant migratory pressure, before the crisis already welcomed 206 children and adolescents.
After noon on Wednesday, a lone car appeared at the gates of the Piniers facilities. Hamido, a 47-year-old resident of Ceuta and unemployed, was driving. His wife sat next to him, mobile phone in hand and a photo of a boy on the screen, ready to show it to whoever came out to meet them. “We are looking for a child to do a favor for a relative in Morocco,” he explained. Without finding anyone to help them, Hamido and his wife went to the ship in the El Tarajal polygon. The man despaired: “They keep sending us from one place to another and nobody tells us anything.”
Aymen Jabali, 14, escaped without warning, according to Hamido’s account, and joined those who, since early Monday morning, have been swimming across the breakwaters of Benzú, to the north, and El Tarajal, to the south, in the border with Ceuta. “On Monday, the boy was on the beach and no longer appeared,” he says. “The mother is very worried and does not want me to be here.” The family learned what had happened because a friend of the boy called them and informed them that Aymen had been taken to a center. There began a chaotic search that has resulted in a new uncertainty: “They have told us to ask again tomorrow, they will give us a paper and with that we can go see if it is somewhere.”
On the streets
During Monday and Tuesday, some 9,000 immigrants entered the city irregularly. Of these, between 2,000 and 3,000 were minors, according to central government sources. They are approximate calculations because there came a time when counting stopped. Many have been returning voluntarily since Wednesday. Others have been returned as they reached the shore, as EL PAÍS has been able to verify on the beach. Officially, Interior denies that the minors are being forced to return. In addition, there are dozens of minors lost in the streets, invisible to the system.
Mohamed Amin appears in flip-flops and wet pants around La Ribera beach. You have just washed and washed your clothes in a shower in the sand after two nights sleeping on cardboard. He is 15 years old, he came by bus from Tetouan, 40 kilometers from the border. He left school a year ago and was working helping to install metal doors for seven euros a week. He assures that he does not intend to return. “I’m going to do riski”, He announces, referring to the method immigrants use to hide on the ferries that go to the Peninsula. The neighbors are helping him with food, but he has four of the five euros left in his pocket. “I’m going to get into the boat anyway,” he warns.
The movement of relatives continues in the El Tarajal warehouse, guarded by the Police. Younes ez-Zayany, 26, calls out to his brother Wael from the parapet of the slope that overlooks the compound. “I just want to come over to say hello,” he says. The young man arrived in Ceuta on Monday at around 3:00 p.m., it barely took him ten minutes to swim across the breakwater of Benzú. Two hours later, he telephoned the youngest of the family to take the same route. “I called him to come,” he admits, “he is small and may stay in Europe.” For Younes, the oldest, the adventure has become a mirage and he is already thinking of returning to Fnideq, the old Castillejos, about seven kilometers from the autonomous city. “I’ll probably go home,” he gives up, “most of the people have already returned.”