Ceuta (Spain) (AFP)
When she first learned that thousands of people were flooding the border from Morocco to the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, Gloria Nisrin admits she panicked.
“To be honest I was a little scared because some people said they wanted to expel the (Spanish) settlers from Ceuta,” said the 38-year-old resident of tiny Spanish territory in North Africa which is also claimed by Morocco. .
“But when I saw them take off their wet clothes and walk the streets in their underwear, some of us gave them clothes,” she said.
“I just couldn’t see them like that, walking around with their feet all damaged by bare feet. “
When an unprecedented 8,000 people crossed from Morocco to Ceuta earlier this week, the images grabbed headlines around the world but sparked fear in this enclave of 84,000 people, where many shops and bars have closed for fear of looting.
“It caused a real sense of panic, especially among the women and children who dared not go out because they were afraid,” said a 70-year-old retiree who did not want to give his name.
“Businesses also closed because these people came empty-handed – they need a place to go to the bathroom, they need food, toiletries, everything, so they were afraid of come and steal them. “
Most of the arrivals were young men and adolescents, who swam to the beaches of Ceuta to find work and escape the misery, unemployment and hunger in Morocco, which have been made worse by the Covid pandemic.
# photo1 Penniless but euphoric, crowds swarmed Ceuta across the city before Spain stepped up security, deploying troops along the beach and sending back thousands.
– Fear of Covid infections –
Although the Spanish government says 6,000 have been returned, around 2,000 others remain inside the enclave, including 800 minors, official figures suggest.
As of Thursday morning, countless groups of young people could still be seen wandering aimlessly through the streets of Ceuta, many plastic bags of food or blankets handed out by Good Samaritans or NGOs, who also provided masks.
“I was scared because there were all these poor creatures running around the streets, they didn’t know where they were going, they were just trying to get away from the police,” said Rafaela Callejas, a housewife. in his fifties.
“I was not afraid that they would do anything … but because there is a global virus that has killed a lot of people,” she told AFP.
On Wednesday evening, a handful of Red Cross medics wearing full protective gear could be seen performing Covid tests on dozens of minors at a long trestle table outside a hospital compound. warehouses near the border.
# photo2 But others who had entered the city in the initial wave were not tested and although most had masks, many were not wearing them or had taken them apart.
“Put on your mask! An old man snapped in Spanish as he walked past two young people with their masks under their chins.
– ‘They will start to fly’ –
Although some seemed moved by their predicament, offering food or clothing, or handing out small change, others were irritated by their presence in the city, predicting that the situation could quickly turn unpleasant.
“They are just wandering the city and as the days go by the crime will increase,” said Luis Duenas, a 39-year-old local businessman.
“They need to eat and drink and (without money) they can’t do that, so what are they doing to do it? They will start to fly, ”predicted this former soldier.
“So the city is going through a huge crisis and the problem is that we are powerless because the Spanish government is not helping us,” he said, pointing to the government of Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.
He said the two tiny Spanish enclaves, Ceuta and Melilla, both perched on the north coast of Africa, had been abandoned by the government, describing them as “the forgotten cities”.
© 2021 AFP