︎    WRITING    ︎


Art Project
Photography (Instant film) and Text by
Clara Trischler & Álvaro Martínez Alonso
Algeciras (ES) / Strait of Gibraltar / Tangier (MA)
in English language


Journeys of the same distance along present and former European external frontiers: between Tangier in Morocco and Algeciras in Spain as well as between Bratislava, Slovakia and Vienna, Austria.

As part of the twelve labours for the gods, Hercules had to cross the mountain Atlas. Instead of climbing, he used his extraordinary strength to smash through it, separating it into Jebel Musa (Morocco) and the Rock of Gibraltar (UK), thus separating Africa from Europe, connecting the
Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and forming the Strait of Gibraltar. The two mountains have since been known as the Pillars of Hercules.

Before the discovery of the American continents, depictions of the columns bore the phrase „Nec plus ultra“ (“Nothing further beyond”), warning sailors that this was the gate to the end of the world.

There’s no comparable place on the planet: the external frontier of the European Union meets the border between Spain and Morocco, the border of British Gibraltar with Spain as well as the border between Spanish Ceuta and Morocco.

The ferry crew travelling between Morocco and Spain mainly consists of workers from the Philippines. The ship has arrived in the harbour and they’re the only ones left on deck, playing basketball. The men work on the ferry for a few months at a time, only seeing their families between these engagements. They cross the strait four times a day, hardly touching the ground.

Whilst the average income of the Spanish is 5,5 times higher than the income of Moroccans, the rent per capita in Spain is ten times higher than rent in Morocco.

Unemployment is almost three times higher in Spain than in Morocco and higher than in any other Western European country. More than half of the workforce aged between 15 and 24 in Spain has no job.

„I got my Spanish from television a long time before living there. When I lost my job during the financial crisis, my wife returned to Morocco with our children. While I was looking for jobs, our family was separated for months. My sons and daughter grew up in Madrid.
They had never learned in Arabic before and had planned their future lives in Spain. Eventually I returned as well. I like thinking about the coffee breaks when I still had a job, sitting in the sun with a cigarette and my colleagues.“


Improvised places for prayer can by found on tourist ferries, in tents near the harbour of Algeciras, in train terminals and many other public places on the Spanish side of the strait.

Allegedly 98,7% of the Moroccan population is Muslim.

May 2015. Fatima is 19 years old and lives in Tangier. She is preparing herself to cross the border between Spain and Morocco in Ceuta, she only takes one suitcase. The Spanish officer notices that Fatima is nervous. He asks her to put the suitcase into the scanner, thinking she might be carrying drugs. As it slowly moves on the band-conveyor, a human shape can be seen on the screen. Immediately the border police opens the suitcase, a child of eight years surfaces, originally from the Ivory Coast, and says “Je m’appelle Abou”.

Some of the containers transported on ships contain food, shoes, wood, tools, toys, office supplies, electronics and furniture. Others contain illegal commercial goods (food, clothes, furniture), tobacco, drugs, arms, cars and fake luxury products. Sometimes refugees are found trying to travel in such containers.

Only 5% of the containers travelling between Tangier and Algeciras are examined for their contents.

Salvador is a Spanish construction worker of 56 years. He is unemployed for 18 months now. Besides the money, he feels he needs something to keep him busy, get him out of the house, fill his days. At the moment, he does black labour, creating fishing-hooks by the harbour of Algeciras.

Since the legal code Mudawana was instituted in 2004, it has changed womens lives in Morocco. The legal age for marriage was set to 18 years (meaning girls aren’t passed over to marry before adolescence any more) and women can decide to marry without their fathers permission. Men can still marry up to four wives, but if a man takes a second wife, his first wife must approve. For the first time women can initiate divorce, husbands have to pay child support in case of divorce and women can now own and inherit property.

Ever since, the divorce rates have increased and the age at marriage has risen.

Ibrahim survived a shipwreck on the Mediterranean Sea in February 2015. He’s 24 years old and originally from Mali. “At around 7pm the boat started to lose air and fill with water,” he told Amnesty International. “People began to fall into the sea. With each wave, two or three were taken away. We clung to a rope with water up to our bellies.” At about 3pm the next day Ibrahim and one other person were rescued by a cargo boat as the onlysurvivors.        

Since 1993 a border fence surrounds Ceuta. It’s six 12 metres high and consists of multiple parallel fences topped with barbed wire. There are watchposts and underground cables connect floodlights, video cameras, noise and movement sensors to a central control booth.

Regularly, hundreds of refugees run towards the fence at the same time to diffuse attention. Whilst a great majority of them end up injured or arrested, a few pass through into the Spanish enclave, Europe on African soil, which doesn’t mean they will ever be able to live in Spain.

When the fence was assaulted by hundreds of migrants in September 2005, it created international attention. Caught between Spanish rubber bullets and Moroccan gunfire, 13 to 18 migrants (the exact number remains unknown) died and over fifty others were injured.

The Mediterranean is the most dangerous sea route for refugees and migrants. In 2014, 219 000 people made the crossing under extremely dangerous conditions and 3 500 died attempting it.

In 2014, the Italian authorities rescued over 170 000 people. However in October 2014, Italy, under pressure from other EU member states, cancelled the rescue operation, Mare Nostrum, which was replaced by Operation Triton (by the EU border agency, Frontex).
Their limitation of ressources led to a dramatic increase in the number of lives lost in the Mediterranean. As of 31 May 2015, 1 865 people had died attempting the Mediterranean crossing, compared to 425 during the same period in 2014.

(Amnesty International’s report on the refugee crisis, June 2015)

A couple with three children sit down next to me. One of the kids is restless and cheeky, doesn’t stop moving and
constantly tries to get his fathers attention. The father tells him off in French and Arabic, the kid talks back in
Spanish, the father responds in Spanish as well.
When I ask them if they live in Spain, the father tells me that they used to, for seven years. His children were born in Spain and because of the economic crisis they had moved again, this time to Belgium.

In the summer, thousands of Moroccan families who have emigrated many years ago return to Morocco with their children.

The average age in Spain is 41,6 years.
In Morocco it’s 28,1.

The Moroccan birth rate is double the amount of Spains whilst Morocco’s death rate is only half that of Spain.

At the strait where the sleepy Mediterranean turns into the shape of a funnel, the arriving current of the animated Atlantic Ocean causes unforeseeable winds.
People stand in the wind watching, the air is crisp, the winds are loud and it smells salty. The coast of Spain is visible from Morocco and Moroccos shape is visible from Spain.