Prior to arriving to Nador, I watched two documentaries about Melilla.
One described the experience of Black Africans living in the forest of Gurugu in Nador. Some live there for two to five years, waiting for their opportunity to climb and cross the multiple fences that line the border. All they need to do is place one foot inside Melilla to get placed inside a holding center and then moved elsewhere in Europe for a minimum of six months until all the paperwork is processed; for them, this is their entry to Europe. Crossing the fence is extremely dangerous though and if they don’t get injured by the fence, they are injured by the Moroccan police, who are paid by Spain to guard the border and have a reputation for beating immigrants that are caught and for burning their camps.
The other one I saw showed women making trips back forth through the Melilla-Nador border carrying heavy bags of used clothing and food into Morocco. In the film, the women stuffed goods under their clothing and also carried them on their back, which confused me, since it wasn’t clear whether these trips were legal or illegal.
Well, I got it all cleared up thanks to Abdel.
After this checkpoint, we reached the Spanish post. Here, Abdel and his friend were directed to a side gate and here we ran into a problem.
The guard took a glance at their passport and simply shook his head. He said it was too late for them to be allowed in. At this point I was really disappointed since it was only 8pm and we had traveled for an hour to get there. The guard saw my passport and said I could pass through the first Spanish post, so Abdel walked over and tried his luck once more, this time pointing to me and my passport. I began talking to the Spanish guards, telling them that we only planned to walk for a bit and intended to come back. One of the guards asked me if Abdel was my partner and on a whim I said yes, and quickly assured him again that we would come back that night because we lived in Nador.
That did it and he let us through.
I was quite shocked about the whole situation, especially because my Mexican passport had never before granted me any visible privilege in Europe (I’ve actually experienced some unfortunate “random” searches and have struggled to pass though customs in a couple of European countries). I was very distracted, still thinking about happened that I didn’t realize that Abdel’s friend had not passed through with us until Abdel pointed it out to me. I turned around and one of the guards asked me if the guy was with me too. After I told him yes, he let him through and in Spanish asked me “Why are you’re bringing in Moroccans?” before turning around.
It’s clear that his question was more of a comment, made to inform me of a xenophobic attitude he thought I was not clear about. The whole experience was really unfortunate and although we made it inside Melilla, I know Abdel was hurt by it all. “Sometimes I feel this is garbage” he said, swinging his green passport up for me to see. I put my own green passport inside my bag and found I couldn’t say anything at all. So we just walked until eventually the night and the warm breeze from the water blurred the sour memory away.