AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Migrants also try to reach Europe by land. Spain has two territories in North Africa blocked off from Morocco. If someone manages to jump the fence, they land in the EU with all the rights that entails. Lauren Frayer sent us this report from the land border.
LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: This is where Africa and Europe meet, a bustling international border and a chain-link fence that juts out into the Mediterranean.
MOHAMED BA: I'm come in the water.
BA: Swimming, of course - yeah, from Morocco to Ceuta.
FRAYER: Mohamed Ba, a 21-year-old from Guinea in West Africa, swam around that fence to get into Ceuta, a Spanish territory. Just like the U.S.-Mexico border, thousands of people cross here illegally. Mohamed planned to pay smugglers to hide him in the back of a truck, but he got robbed.
BA: I have 200 euro in my pocket. They pulled the money off me, and they beat me. You see that?
FRAYER: He shows me a long scar on his arm. He spent his whole family's savings to get here, so he decided to swim around the border fence.
BA: Nine hour.
FRAYER: Nine hours?
BA: Nine hours, yeah.
FRAYER: Spanish guards have been indicted for firing rubber bullets on migrants in the water. Last year, 15 Africans drowned. Juan Antonio Delgado is a Civil Guard spokesman.
JUAN ANTONIO DELGADO: (Speaking Spanish).
FRAYER: "That was a monumental mistake, but we work under so much pressure," he says. "You've got 500 desperate Africans face-to-face with 50 of us guards. It's very dramatic. They're absolutely determined to get across."
When they do, they have two options, says Germinal Castillo, a local Red Cross first responder.
GERMINAL CASTILLO: (Speaking Spanish).
FRAYER: "They can claim political asylum or say they're here for economic reasons," he says. "The problem is that they arrive without any documents. They kiss the ground, but then they have to wait months for visas and work permits. They're all looking for a better life. They're looking for what we already have."
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
FRAYER: West African music blasts in the yard of this migrant facility, where Mohamed Ba was housed for six months, waiting for travel documents.
BA: I want to go in Barcelona.
BA: I need a job because my people no have nothing, and my father is dead. I am only with my mom and my two younger sisters. I need to give them food and to help them - to help my family.
FRAYER: Now finally, his paperwork has come through.
BA: Because of that I'm very happy. I am laughing. I'm eating good, and I'm sleeping good, yeah.
FRAYER: I wish you the best of luck.
BA: Yeah, thank you.
FRAYER: He's heading out on a ferry, chasing his dream to work in Barcelona. For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer in Ceuta, Spain.
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