Indian illegals live in the woods in Spanish enclave

May 8th, 2008 - 7:34 pm ICT by admin  

By Rafael Pena
Ceuta (Spain), May 8 (EFE) A group of 67 Indian immigrants has been living and sleeping for the past month in the woods in this Spanish enclave in North Africa fearing they will be repatriated to India. All of them have different stories, but they all have the same dream, although it is temporarily on hold: to get to Europe.

On April 7, the group decided to abandon the government-run shelter in Ceuta and set up their own camp in a nearby forest using pieces of plastic and pieces of wood they found in the area.

The 67 Indians thus began a protest against their situation. Now, a month later, their faces show the sadness, loneliness and exhaustion they are feeling.

Harneer Singh’s journey to Ceuta - one of two Spanish enclaves on northern Morocco coast - took him two-and-a-half years.

“From India, I traveled to some spot on the African coast, to Bamako, in Mali, and then I returned to the coast and set sail for Ceuta and this second part of the trip I made blindfolded,” he said.

Singh said that he was tired, he has two children as well as two single sisters and a brother whom he must care for, “and so returning to my country without money and without work is a problem”.

His testimony is similar to that of his companions: they left their country to seek a better future and now they don’t want to return without anything to show for their effort, above all after some of them have been in Ceuta for 18 months.

Kuldup Singh, the oldest person in the group at age 38, left his two daughters and one son in India and “now they are living in the houses of relatives”.

He said that the money he earned in his country as a farmer was not enough “and, very sadly, I had to leave”.

A spokesman for the group, who identified himself as Gurpreet B., said: “We only want to earn money so that our family can live better.”

Gurpreet made his remarks before leaving the camp to go into Ceuta to find work watching over parked cars on the street with the aim of earning enough money to be able to telephone his family back home.

The group received the support of Ceuta’s Hindu community, NGOs and individuals who come to the camp each day to give the migrants food and clothing or to chat with them.

Officials with the Spanish central government delegation in Ceuta told EFE that no exceptions apply to the group and their eventual fate will be repatriation to India.

Official sources said that another group of 33 Bangladeshi migrants applied for humanitarian consideration on the basis of a massive earthquake that hit their country. But deportation is what they will get because none of them requested political asylum in Spain.

But the 67 Indians have been living in the woods here for a month hoping to somehow achieve the “European dream” of finding a job and having a better life.

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