Migrants and Porters at the Gate

The word “Morocco” conjures images of deserts, Bedouins, and souks in Marrakech, not the flamenco and Paella of Spain. Yet, there are two enclaves of Spain resting in Morocco, much to the chagrin of the Moroccans. Ceuta and Melilla are Spanish autonomous cities that lie along the Mediterranean Sea, nestled among the hills of Morocco. Both cities have been disputed by Moroccan claims, which are rejected by the Spanish government and local populations. Meanwhile, Ceuta and Melilla have become portals between Europe and Africa, both for people and goods.

A map of Ceuta and Melilla on the Mediterranean

It has been well documented that Africans are willing to endure many hardships to cross into Europe, with news stories popping up constantly about capsizing boats off the coast of Lampadusa, Italy or the coast of Greece. Ceuta and Melilla have also become a popular destination for African migration into Europe. The Spanish authorities contend that there are around 80,000 people waiting to cross into those two Spanish cities. The sheer volume of potential immigrants has led Spain to construct a triple layer of 20 foot high fences with barbed wire around Ceuta and Melilla, manned by border police with rubber bullets. These barriers were constructed at a cost of around 30 million euros, and are referred to by some Europeans as “walls of shame”.

The Valla de Melilla, or triple rows of barbed wire fence standing 20 feet high

These fences have not been a deterrent for desperate migrants looking to cross the border into Europe. There are frequent surges of people trying to cross the fences or swim to shore, hoping that their numbers will overwhelm the border guards. Earlier in February 2014, over 250 Africans  tried to simultaneously climb the fences or swim into the safety of Ceuta, while the Spanish border guards fired rubber bullets in an attempt to deter them. So far, 15 bodies have been found from that altercation. The interpretation of Spanish law is largely to blame for these surges. Would-be immigrants have not officially entered Spain until they have crossed the police line, not the border. The Spanish government is looking at reforming the law to ease the pressure. Currently, the migrants are housed in the Temporary Center for Immigrants and Asylum Seekers (CETI), which is chronically overcrowded. In 2013, the Ceuta CETI housed more than 700 people in a space built for 512. Large numbers of the migrants come from countries with whom Spain does not have treaties, giving the migrants the freedom to stay in Spain once they have their paperwork. On the Moroccan side of the border, the government has been trying to “regularise” undocumented migrants to allow them to work in Morocco, while the number of deportations of migrants to the Algerian border has decreased.

It’s not only people that try to cross the border clandestinely, as many Moroccan women attempt to take advantage of a loophole in Moroccan law through Ceuta and Melilla. Any goods that come into Morocco by foot are exempt from duties, as they are considered personal luggage, not goods for sale. Due to this loophole, many porteadoras, mostly Moroccan women, cross the border between Ceuta and Melilla into Morocco with 60 kg (132 lbs) of goods on their backs for as little as 3 euros a trip. Most of these women make 3 to 4 trips a day carrying more than their body weight in clothes, blankets, and other goods. In 2011, this trade was estimated to be worth 15 billion dirhams, or $1.5 billion, all untaxed. Up to 90 million euros is also paid in bribes every year, mostly to Moroccan border guards, according to Moroccan weekly Al Ayam. While these may seem like difficult and hellish conditions, these jobs support 45,000 people directly and 400,000 indirectly, highlighting the importance of cross-border trade and migration. Still, there is a danger, with porters dying every so often, trampled under the crowds of people loaded with kilograms of goods.

The porteadoras, or mule women, carrying goods across the border into Morocco

While these enclaves may seem small and unimportant, Ceuta and Melilla mean so much more to people who depend on them for their livelihood or their freedom into a new life. As much as they cause headaches for Spain, Morocco, and the European Union, there is no easy answer to resolve the issue. These European oases will continue shining like beacons, attracting the weary and desperate from the African continent.

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Fiat Lux: Observations on the Power Africa Initiative

Despite posessing only 12% of the world's population Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for nearly 45% of those without access to energy.
Despite constituting only 12% of the world’s population, Sub-Saharan Africans account for 45% of those without access to electricity.

“God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, and it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.” Although this verse from the Book of Genesis has been recited to the point of being a hackneyed cliche in energy literature, it nonetheless speaks to two powerful truths; that light—a pure form of energy—is good, and that it is ever-present. This statement is taken as gospel by many in the developed world, as a proclamation of energy’s abundance and virtue.  Indeed, other than a handful of outlying commentators, few would deny the former quality and even less the latter. For an appreciative American consumer—who pays some of the lowest energy rates in the world—such a system must seem nothing short of providential. This providence, however, is hardly universal, indeed as Genesis proclaims the light has been divided from the darkness. For many without light, without energy, this line of demarcation is the Sahel region of Africa, separating Sub-Saharan Africa from the rest of the world.

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Building BRICS of Foreign Aid: Newest Member of the Club

South Africa: To BRIC or not to BRIC?

The term “BRIC” was first coined by Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill in reference to the group of emerging economies that O’Neill thought had the potential to become an economic bloc rivaling the industrialized economies over the course of the next century. While not originally used to refer to a political alliance of these countries, the term BRIC has been co-opted by the countries themselves who now hold summits to discuss issues of common concern to emerging economies.

A few years ago South Africa began to lobby the other BRIC countries to be admitted to the group.  In 2010, it got its wish and an ‘S’ was added to the end of the BRIC acronym. But even now that South Africa is formally a member of the club, many people question whether it makes sense to think of South Africa in this way.  Is South Africa a future economic powerhouse with the same economic potential as the other BRIC countries?

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Of Doctors and Immigration: The Growing Need for International Physicians

The Supreme Court’s recent ruling on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will have monumental implications for the future of healthcare. Beyond the political posturing and legal scrutiny the decision has inspired, the fact of the matter is that the healthcare law is here to stay. Absent of legislation to modify or repeal the law, it will remain, for better or worse. In the immediate future—implementation, not resistance—will be the mantra of Washington.

The Affordable Care Act will radically alter the landscape of the healthcare industry.

At the same time, the enactment of the law presents substantial challenges. Especially daunting will be the assimilation of an estimated 40 million Americans as they join the ranks of the insured because of the individual mandate. Simultaneously, some 75 million baby boomers hurtle toward retirement, greatly increasing the demand for health services. In addition, almost 40 percent of the 850,000 licensed physicians are 55 years or older, many of them intending to retire in the near future.

Variables such as these have put the healthcare industry on a collision course with massive labor shortages. Traditional models have projected that there could be shortages of more than 150,000 doctors over the next 15 years. The ACA only exacerbates the problem: the Association of American Medical Colleges projected that when the provisions the healthcare law are in full effect, the shortages will grow 50% worse. Many American medical schools are expanding their enrollment capacities, but even those measures will not fully close the gap. Continue reading