Over the last few decades, the economies on both sides of the border seemed to benefit from the enclave, spurred on by Ceuta’s duty-free status. However, the border is also the frontier between Africa and Europe and inevitably the EU became increasingly concerned about traffic in drugs and illegal immigrants, financing in 2005 a £15m ($22m) hi-tech “wall” with closed-circuit TV and sensors along the eight-kilometre boundary.
The money to be made from outflanking these defences has attracted equally hi-tech smugglers, trading in hash, hard drugs, disadvantaged Moroccans, and refugees from as far south as Liberia and Rwanda. More affluent refugees have been sent over to Spain by night, often in small boats unsuited to the short but difficult crossing. The more desperate try to swim across to Ceuta from Fnideq’s beach or scale the six-metre-high border fence. Most recently, there has been growing dissent in the impoverished residential areas of Ceuta where Moroccan residents have come into conflict with the Spanish authorities over a severe lack of employment and poor living conditions.