The Maghreb Connection

The Mediterranean Sea is not a sea; it is Southern Europe’s border wall.

The Maghreb is literally any territory west from Egypt; Cairo functioned as the georeference for a Greenwich-like system in the Arab world.

The Sahara Desert was traditionally perceived as a vast sea; the Maghreb was referred to as an island surrounded by Mediterranean, Atlantic and Sahara “waters”.

Tuareg former free territories belong to five different countries today.

Western Sahrawi are deprived from their nomadic life in the desert by a 2,000 km long artificial wall of sand, dug out from their very same desert.

Ancient nomad trans-Sahara trade tracks are the new highways for work migrants.

Tangier-Med is a key mega-port for global mobility of goods. It lies just opposite Bel Younech informal camp, where migrants wait for a chance to cross over to the global consumption dream.

How much I love my family is measured according to how much money I send them.

Migrant boats have to be built clandestinely in the desert and brought to the coast at the moment of launching them into the sea.

A prison in Italy is better than freedom at home.

Chinese migrants struggling to survive in Cairo have taken over the role of traditional door-to-door female vendors, the Dallala.

The poorest and driest region in Almeria, Southern Spain, has been turned into one of the most fertile and wealthiest, thanks to the labour of irregular Maghreb migrants.

Doctors and engineers are bricklayers and fruit pickers.

The Maghreb Connection is a compilation of essays and research projects that assemble everyday reality in this part of Northern Africa. Edited by Ursula Biemann and Brian Holmes, The Maghreb Connection charts counter-geography through various contributions, apart from their own: Armin Linke, Yto Barrada and Hala Elkoussey among others. As the editors define the term: counter-geography is where the subversive, informal and irregular practices of space take place, the ones that happen despite state forces and supranational regulations.

The desert acts as a sort of waiting room for millions of desperate souls awaiting the chance to be crossed over the border to an idealized world. This post-colonial migration movement relies upon an extensive network of alliances to reach their final goal. Ali Bensaâd outlines also the fact of being unconditionally mobile people. This is the common feature to all this floating population in African coasts, who wants to venture into the other side: The individuals with the most resources in terms of opennesss to the outside are the most susceptible to becoming mobile. They are entrepreneurs in a way, in our era where the “entrepreneur” is promoted as the social ideal-type. Every migrant leaves everything behind: belongings, family and life.

European sealed borders delimit an area of free mobility after Schengen Agreement; but at the same time, they enhance the desire to start a real exodus and be inside them.  Either if it is the Strait of Gibraltar, Canary Islands’ or Lampedusa’s waters, a never-ending flow of irregular boats keep on trying to touch European ground. The Maghreb works as the departure point to bridge the gap between two continents. Florian Schneider points out that (i)n the nineteenth century, people had no problems crossing borders, while goods and products were taxed. Now it is the opposite: goods and money are supposed to flow freely, while people face more and more obstacles.

The Maghreb Connection throws a light into the kind of ambitions that move humans to start such a journey to Europe, as well as the mechanisms and strategies that make it feasible. We usually only hear in the media of the ones who are caught in their attempt and those who perish. However, the successful are already victorious somewhere at the other side of the Maghreb, where another hard journey begins for them.

[1,2,3> Biemann, U. / Holmes, B. (eds.): The Maghreb Connection – Movements of Life Across North Africa. Actar 2006]

[4> Informal Migrant Camp Bel Younech, Morocco_Eduardo del Campo 2009] [5> La Canoa by El Roto]






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