Strait of Gibraltar Route
The Strait of Gibraltar route might appear to be limited to the 14 kilometres separating Africa from Europe at the narrowest point, but the movement of people in the region is actually far more complex and the route extends all the way to Moulay Bousselham on Morocco’s Atlantic coast.
This historical route was initially travelled by Moroccans, who could see Tarifa on the opposite shore. Sub-Saharan African communities also began to take the route around 20 years ago and transformed the types of vessels used to make the crossing. Small plastic rowing boats, known as ‘toys’, were common in these waters.
Militarisation in the region shifted migrant communities towards other, more dangerous routes and limited traffic on this route. Moroccans and, occasionally, people from other countries such as Yemen, continue to attempt to swim across to Ceuta. Jet skis and kayaks are also used, although less often.
HISTORY OF THE ROUTE
We received the first alert: a ‘toy’ was sinking in the Strait of Gibraltar.
Sub-Saharan Africans began to travel the route more frequently.
Upheaval on the coast
The Rif region, which lies on the overland section of the route, experienced episodes of political conflict that forced many of its inhabitants into exile. Moroccans and sub-Saharan Africans took the route together.
A busy summer
As the eastern and central Mediterranean routes were shut down, the Alboran Sea and Strait of Gibraltar routes served as an alternative for people on the move. Protection of the right to life was undermined by the introduction of a single command allowing the Civil Guard to control maritime rescue services.
Shift to other routes
Militarisation on the northern routes pushed people towards the more dangerous Canary Islands and Algerian routes.
The most common way of crossing is by swimming. Over the years, many families have searched in vain for their missing children but have been unable to confirm their deaths in the absence of any surviving witnesses or bodies retrieved.