Melilla is a photographic project by Genoa based Italian photographer Anna Positano. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, in private galleries and public institutions. Alongside her artistic and research practice, she works under commission for architects and magazines. Occasionally she gives talks and leads workshops at university level.
Text and images © Anna Positano
“And finally, Melilla is the perfect destination for sports enthusiasts. Attractions in the surrounding area include a visit to Mount Gurugú with its resident colony of monkeys, … [have fun with] scubadiving on its rocky sea bed, with its abundance of marine life.” (www.spain.info)
Melilla is a Spanish enclave on the Mediterranean coast of Morocco. Along with Ceuta, Melilla is the only way to enter the European Union territory without crossing the sea. A 6 meter-high and 12 km-long border fence surrounds Melilla; it separates the city from Morocco and prevents migrants from sub-Saharan Africa to enter. Frontex, the agency in charge for European borders surveillance, was responsible for the construction of the barrier. Along the boundary there are presence sensors and razor wire – that is illegal in the EU. In the past there were tear gas sprinklers, now removed. They say that it was originally proposed an electrified fence.
When the migrants manage to cross the barrier, the soldiers intervene. Sometimes the guards fire rubber bullets. And it happens that some migrant drown before their eyes. Or that he hurts to death while climbing the fence. The survivors live at the CETI, a detention centre in the southwest of Melilla. They can go in and out freely. Nearby there is a golf course. Some claim that it was built with the money coming from the European Union. Behind the golf course and across the fence, there is Gurugú mountain, where 150,000 people camp out, waiting to cross the European border.
The city is militarized with little discretion and appears austere as a Central European city. Clean, tidy, almost deserted. Yet the border areas are always busy. At the checkpoints, there are long lines of cars and people, who come to work in Europe with daily visas. At the border near the CETI, Europeans cannot get a visa; they must go to Beni Ansar checkpoint. There, people help Europeans to fill out the form for the visa. They provide pens and form, but formally they do not exist.
The northern part of the barrier defines an artificial forest of maritime pines that they used for military exercises. It is one of the highest points of the city, where bloody battles took place in the past. On Sunday, few families make the barbecue there. It is an area under strict surveillance, dotted with CCTV cameras and presence sensors. In the forest, overlooking the sea, there is a mirador to allow tourists and visitors to enjoy the view over the cliff.