Harraga

Tanger, Morocco – January–June 2007

Every day tens of Moroccan young man try to cross ilegally the Strait of Gibraltar. “Harraga” (immigrants in Arabic) come to Tanger from all over Morocco. They try their good luck and hidden between the wheels of a truck they attempt to board on a ferry and get to Spain, eventually further to Europe.

Each of Harraga has his own trick and hope that he will be the one who will manage to escape one day. They observe the traffic of the trucks, they know when the checking shifts switch, they know when and how and what is embarked, they watch the weather changes, rain, fog and know about its impact on the port traffic. They look for a chink to slip away through. Some of Harraga swim in the dark morning hours with a rope ladder and a hook up to boats and try to get on board by this risky way.

Considering the thorough checks at the port only few of them make it. As soon as the omnipresent patrolling police notices a bigger number of young men, they immediately ask for documents. Most of Harraga are from different regions, therefore they might get arrested and deported only because of anunpermitted stay in Tanger. Sometimes the police release them for a bribe of few euros, sometimes they beat them cruelly, sometimes they arrest them and turn them over to the court.

Harraga themselves say that on every ten caught men there is one who gets away succesfully. After that his friends write his fake name in paint on the wall of the port (Harraga use fake names among themselves so as to confuse the police).

Every one of them claims that because of a bad economic situation of Morocco they cannot afford to have and mantain a family, which is the reason for their escape. On the contrary ordinary Maroccans, for whom Harraga often are a source of contempt, say that Harraga do not want to work, that they only long for European abundance and money without work.

Harraga spend months living on a beach, in huts along the walls of the port, some of them beg for food, those who had succeded once, had been to Europe and thanks to that speak Spanish, sell hashish to foreigners. All of them hang around waiting for the right night so as their dream about Europe came true.

Photography by Jan Sochor
Music by Asian Dub Foundation – “Fortress Europe”, Enemy of the Enemy (2003)

Photo license

Copyright © 2014 Jan Sochor. No photographs and text may be used or reproduced in any form.