19 Mar ’14
The Strait of Gibraltar is a channel of water between the southern coast of Spain and the northern coast of Morocco. The strait is the only connection between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, causing it to be one of the busiest shipping routes in the world, with hundreds of ships passing through daily.
Because of the location and access it provides to the rest of the Mediterranean, the Strait has played an important role in the development of the culture on both sides of the water.
In the past, before borders and security, travel between Spain and Morocco was relatively easy. Travel between Morocco and Spain resulted in strong African influences in some of Spain’s southern towns. When Muslims from Northern Africa, particularly Morocco, known as the Moors, invaded the Iberian Peninsula in 711, they established themselves throughout the region, especially in southern Spanish cities, influencing the architecture, government, history, and culture. The ownership of the region was a source of conflict between Morocco, Spain, and other interested parties in the Iberian Peninsula. Because of the back-and-forth between reigning governments and individual travelers, a mix of Spanish and African culture can be seen in the area today. In many southern Spanish cities, African migrants can be seen with markets set up and vendors patrolling the streets, looking for tourists to sell their crafts to.
The closest point between the coast of Spain and the coast of Morocco is only 14 kilometers, or about 8.5 miles, so close that they can both be seen across the strait from one another. The proximity of Spain and Morocco has resulted in an influx of African immigrants into the European country, where they are then free to travel throughout the entire European Union. The number of immigrants coming into Spain reached a high from 2005-2007, when tens of thousands of people crossed the strait every year. This influx of people resulted in Spain increasing itsexpenditures on border security, as many of these immigrants are illegal, and are often smuggled across in boats.
The journey across the strait is extremely dangerous due to the small boats used as transportation, as well as the presence of large freighters traveling through to reach the Mediterranean. When crossing, the African immigrants’ only goal is to reach Spanish soil. If they are to be caught by a Moroccan boat, they will be transported back to Morocco, whereas if they are stopped by a Spanish boat, they will likely be taken back to Spain where they will have to spend a few months in detention and then likely will be let go.
As a result of illegal immigration, Spain increased its border security by reinforcing metal border fences and increasing border patrol security. The number of migrants who tried to illegally enter Spain by boat in 2013 was 3,804, showing a 30% drop from 2012. The increased border security, as well as rising unemployment and a lack of available jobs in Spain is said to have played a role in this drop.