Burning Thoughts

I really liked the rough cut of this film so far and am interested in seeing how it develops. Some of my thoughts on it are organized below.

I really like the main characters and would like to hear more from them and perhaps others about certain things. For example, why do they think that people fight them so severely to stop them from crossing? There was some mention of racism, but do people think there are other factors? (Neo/colonialism and capitalism come to mind, though others may not use these terms). What and who do they think caused the situations they are trying to get away from? What do they feel should be done? Do they ever hear from people who cross? And what do they do during the day—much of this is probably trying to get food and find some work to get money—but they also do have times when they are not doing this stuff. Here I’m mainly thinking of the kids at the camps, since we see quite a bit of characters in the living areas.

It might also be useful to draw on comparisons to previous periods of policing of borders, and historical patterns of fear and oppression. The one I know most about is when Irish, Italians, Catholics and others were feared in the USA in the 1800’s and 1900’s (and also not considered “white”). The modern day counterpart is the US would be Mexicans/Latinxs.

I also think it could be interesting to hear from the film makers regarding their thoughts and experiences. Though I am not sure exactly how this would fit in, I do think it could be done in ways that don’t distract from or crowd out the story that is being shown.

One point that was very interesting was this constant use of human rights rhetoric by various people in the film.

Is the system illegitimate because it does not grant us rights or because it cannot?

Are “rights” even the best way to think about things? What about in terms of needs and ability to meet them? Doesn’t the fact that these governments are breaking their own laws show how meaningless those laws are?

Laws exist to control other people and resources. Those with power set and control the laws. Any law that becomes a threat or nuisance to them will soon be thrown out. Any reform can be taken away just as easily—no, far more easily—than it is accepted.

I do think this stuff about rights is a bit more than just semantics and shows some underlying foundations in how we conceptualize the world. We think about States as being necessary to secure our livelihood, well being, and “rights” even going so far as to conflate them with [all] “society” itself (Clastres 1987). These words, categories and meanings shape the ways in which we think, feel and perceive.

At one point a policeman says “Morocco is a sovereign country.” What does this mean? What is the reality? This is a very interesting word: it indicates a kind of “authority” but just whose authority is it exactly? I wonder if the actions of the guardia, government and seemingly indifferent golfers and rich[er] people really represent the views and wishes of everyone in Spain and the EU?

Instead of buying into this rhetoric about “sovereignty” and “rights” and “the will of the people” we should see these for the smokescreens that they are used as to deflect attention from who really holds power, controls resources and makes decisions about our lives and world. We should think in terms of human needs and desires, and our actual ability to meet them so as to get directly to the point.

Finally, there are some questions I think this film can hone in on to magnify its impact:

Why do we have borders?

It seems like such a simple question, but do we ever really ask it without assuming the answers are obvious?

In whose interests are borders really manufactured and policed?

Are we really separate from everyone else? Do we have different interests? And is that why we have borders? Or… are borders what cause us to believe we are separate and have different interests than the rest of the people–and living beings–on this planet?

Perhaps it’s the borders themselves which are problematic, and indicative of much deeper flaws in our society, thinking and ways of living. Like the border between those who can make decisions and everyone else. The borders between those who have money and those who do not. Those who “own” things which they do not themselves use, and everyone else who must then sell themselves bit by bit for access to a means of getting what they need to live and enjoy life.

An interesting point is raised about how discourse about the Sub Saharan Africans’ precarious positions on the Moroccan Border is absent from the media, unlike the plight of Syrian Refugees. I imagine the attention given to the Syrian crises over the Sub-Saharan African migration reflects American and European political and economic agendas. The middle east is an oil rich area with many regimes that are potential enemies to western States and multinational corporations. Drawing attention to the region can also be used in part to justify further intervention and control over the region. The lack of coverage to Moroccan & EU borders not only hides problems and defects inherent to the system and protects governments’ reputations, but demonstrates how these and other areas which lack resources desirable to these entities are ignored, regardless of the suffering that results. (Why USA didn’t go into Rwanda during genocide, as admitted by Bill Clinton, for example).

Who and how are people resisting borders and oppression? What is being done? What can we do?

There are people resisting, calling and acting for “no borders” [2, 3] who recommend donating not only supplies like food and clothing to people who need them, but also film equipment so that people forced into these desperate situations can tell their stories and document what is happening [4]. Some also engage in more directly confrontational tactics to aid migrants and break down borders.

Here you can see some images that people took of the remains of their camp after a raid

This is another video from an October 2015 raid with some dialogue. The person filming describes what used to exist there and what it was like to experience the police raid.


Clastres, P. (1987). Society against the state: Essays in political anthropology. New York: Zone Books.
[2] http://noborders.org.uk/aboutnoborders
[3] http://noborders.org.uk/news/no-borders-manifesto
[4] https://beatingborders.wordpress.com/2015/06/25/we-need-support/#more-1329

“The Crossing” – My Reaction

African migrants take part in a rally

It really shocked me just how hard it is for the sub-Saharan Africans to fit into the Moroccan society. As Beni describes, “We have to live in the forest like animals because the Moroccans don’t want us living beside them. They don’t want to see us in their towns, and when they do, they throw rocks at us and shout ‘Azzi!’” Azzi is a racial slur sometimes hurled at sub-Saharan Africans.” At the same time, as much as I hate to admit it Moroccans do tend to be racist, hence the use of the racial slur “Azzi” which I’m familiar with. I think this goes back to that entire notion of just how North Africa is usually separated from the rest of the African continent and to a certain extent not considered part of Africa, not only due to cultural differences but also due to skin color.


Another relatable word was “Hrig,” the Moroccan Arabic term for “illegal immigration,” that translates to “burning.” I am also familiar with the word but more in terms of describing Moroccans that flee the country to go to Europe. I never really knew its true significance and why burning in particular to describe the process but now I know. It makes total sense now to think of it as burning one’s ID in order to avoid being taken back by the EU authorities but also burning one’s past identity for a brighter and better future abroad.

One particular line that struck me was the following, “I can’t go to the police when I’m cheated or attacked. If I present a problem, then I am the problem.” This really made me realize how difficult the situation for these migrants is as they their rights as humans are being violated and they cant even do anything about it, as they would be considered the cause of the issue no matter what. On the other hand, I really admire their determination and hope to not give up as marked by the following quote,  “We will make it to Europe or we will die trying. There is no other way home for us now.” Yet, one should not forget that they don’t really have a choice as in most cases their real home has nothing left to offer, thus nothing to lose and take the risk. It’s all or nothing. “I had no one left at home to protect.” I can’t imagine the struggle to of the integration process for Sub-Saharan Africans into the society as the Moroccan society itself is going through so much turmoil, especially with regards to economic hardship. Not to be bias but Moroccans themselves are also struggling to make a living and a lot of the majority also live in poverty.


Another thing that I could really relate to especially as a Moroccan was the discussion about opportunities with regards to one’s nationality and how they impact one’s ability to move and travel. It truly is a disadvantage in a sense like the amount of times I wish I had double nationality just for the sake of being able to travel without having to apply for a visa is crazy. Not to mention, when we do get the visa, its limited to such a short time period simply due to the fact that we are Moroccan, African and Muslim. Thus, I strongly agree with the existing “correlation between opportunities for social and economic mobility within one’s own country, and the opportunity for mobility to more economically prosperous countries”.

Asuperthumbt the end of the article, Beni described Morocco as a place that could be called purgatory but then said, “We call it hell. We’re all trapped here waiting in hell.” This really hit home as my home country is literally described as hell, it is so hard for me to imagine as I grew up there an
d know the people. I never thought my home country could be so cruel to others and disregard them I mean we are all African in the end and should help each other as opposed to fight one another. It also important to note just how Morocco is made to be this “disposal” or landfill space for Spain and the EU and is completely taken advantage of and I just hate that!