Immigration: AT THE GATES; as the European Union Expands, It's Come Face to Face with a New World

By Dickey, Christopher; McNicoll, Tracy et al. | Newsweek International, October 24, 2005 | Go to article overview

Immigration: AT THE GATES; as the European Union Expands, It's Come Face to Face with a New World


Dickey, Christopher, McNicoll, Tracy, Barchfield, Jenny, Barigazzi, Jacopo, Theil, Stefan, Newsweek International


Byline: Christopher Dickey (With Eric Pape and Tracy McNicoll in Paris, Jenny Barchfield in Madrid, Jacopo Barigazzi in Milan, and Stefan Theil in Berlin)

The Africans had walked for days from the vast Sahara to reach those high fences topped with razor wire that are all that separates their world from two tiny outposts of Europe on the southern shore of the Mediterranean. They came from Senegal, from Mali, from Mauritania--from countries they wouldn't name, whose papers they had destroyed--and hid deep in Morocco's coastal forest, waiting.

When the moment came, they used cell phones to coordinate their assaults on the fences, rushing forward like human avalanches, hundreds of men at a time, some carrying ladders, some with gloves and loose clothes, cascading against the barriers erected around the Spanish enclaves called Ceuta and Melilla. Starting in late September, as Spanish authorities set about methodically raising the fence from three meters to six, wave upon wave of would-be immigrants made desperate attempts to clamber over. Spanish security forces, greatly outnumbered, haven't been able to hold all of them back. Moroccan security forces, first diffident, then excessive, have twice opened fire. At least 14 of the climbers have been killed. But if these tragedies have inspired pity and fear all over the European Union, it's not just because of the drama of the moment; it's because they are omens of greater troubles to come.

As the union's frontiers expand, drawing in countries that used to be buffers between First World prosperity and Third World poverty, the lines of demarcation between affluence and misery, democracy and extremism, become as sharp as razor wire. If Turkey eventually accedes, Europe will border Syria, Iran, Iraq, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. "Some say we should keep our buffer zone, and that Europe shouldn't be naive about what it is bumping up against," says Daniel Koehane of the Centre for European Reform in London. "Others say it would help the EU to shape those countries, similar to the way that it has successfully shaped the new member states in the east and even Turkey." But on the problematic frontiers like Ceuta and Melilla, the record is one of grand promises and stopgap measures that have utterly failed to cope with a burgeoning crisis.

Consider the French island of Mayotte, part of the archipelago off the coast of southern Africa that includes the Comoros. Some 55,000 of Mayotte's 160,000 people are illegal immigrants. About 97 percent are Muslim. The dominant language is a variety of Swahili. But social benefits and laws of citizenship that --apply in Paris apply in Mayotte, too, making its allure almost irresistible. Any child born on French territory, including Mayotte, can potentially claim French--and European--citizenship. According to social workers, unwed mothers often risk their lives in rickety boats to get to the island, then give birth and sell the "rights" of fatherhood to the highest bidder. Mayotte's only maternity ward is the busiest in France, surpassing those of Paris, Lyons or Marseilles with 7,500 births a year. According to Mansour Kamardine, a member of the French National Assembly elected from Mayotte, the island expels some 8,000 illegals a year. …

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Immigration: AT THE GATES; as the European Union Expands, It's Come Face to Face with a New World
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