EL PASO — Americans have become accustomed to the startling images of desperate people climbing their way over chain link fences into the United States, a country they cannot access legally.
But that same image of the plight of undocumented immigrants in a constant struggle to improve their lives also can be seen in other countries all over the world.
Dr. Said Saddiki, an associate professor from the University of Fes Morocco and a Fulbright Program scholar at UTEP, is studying the flow of undocumented immigrants from Morocco to Spain.
“Most people, and the mass media, use the term illegal immigrations,” said Saddiki. “The Border International official document, the official framework of the United Nations, avoids the term illegal immigrations because of its negative connotation. That is why the UN, since 1957, advises nations to use the term undocumented or irregular immigrants.”
Saddiki is concluding a study at UTEP entitled Irregular Migration and Border Fences: A Comparative Study of U.S.-Mexico and Morocco-Spain Borders.
According to Saddiki, borders were once a critical part of the defense of a nation and the military doctrine of civilizations’ hundreds of years ago. He used an example of The Great Wall of China and how it stood as military rampart — not a fence to keep people out but one used to defend against conquering countries.
“Between the end of the Second World War and the end of the Cold War, 21 walls were constructed between nations,” said Saddiki. “9/11 was a turning point in modern history. At that time it was the cold war of globalization, it was the end of a world without borders.”
Saddiki said that in the post 9/11 world there have been more walls and borders constructed than any other time. According to him, there are approximately 26,000 kilometers of fences around the world, which would be a longer than a round trip from El Paso to Australia.
“Morocco and Mexico have a long history of migration,” said Saddiki. “Now more than three million Moroccans are living somewhere other than their country and there are approximately 40 million in morocco.”
Like the undocumented immigrants crossing the Mexico-U.S. fences, many Moroccan immigrants have chosen to live a life in Europe because of greater financial opportunity.
According to Saddiki the withdrawal of European colonial powers from Africa had a negative economic effect in the continent, which resulted in an increase in the flight to Spain of undocumented immigrants seeking EU citizenship. From there, the immigrants make their way throughout Europe. He said this flight from poor countries is comparable to the flight of immigrants from Mexico and South America to the U.S.
“Both fences are equipped with barbed fences, infrared cameras and border agents,” said Saddiki. “Even with these difficulties these people did not cease to cross.” These long migrations, however, have resulted in tragic deaths for thousands of “irregulars.”
According to Saddiki, the ironic part about the fences dividing Morocco and Spain is that Moroccans are among the majority of workers who build the fences. The U.S. has seen the same instance since the majority of workers building the fence dividing Mexico and the U.S. are Hispanic.