A Foot In Africa, A Foot In Europe: Divide Grows Wider In Ceuta : Parallels The Spanish city is physically part of Africa. About half of its people are more prosperous Europeans; half are Arabic-speaking Muslims disproportionately living in poverty. That disparity is growing.
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A Foot In Africa, A Foot In Europe: Divide Grows Wider In Ceuta

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A Foot In Africa, A Foot In Europe: Divide Grows Wider In Ceuta

A Foot In Africa, A Foot In Europe: Divide Grows Wider In Ceuta

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Next, a little geography trivia about a sliver of Europe in Africa. There are actually two - two Spanish cities which are part of Spain and the EU, but are physically in Africa. This year marks their 600th anniversary as European territory, and changing demographics have some people wondering whether they should be returned to local African rule. Lauren Frayer visited and has this report.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Ceuta is a 7-square-mile peninsula that juts out from Morocco. It's a Spanish city, but to get there, you have to take a ferry across the Mediterranean. The first person I meet on the ferry gives you an idea of the type of Europeans who live there.

JESUS CASTILLA: (Speaking Spanish).

FRAYER: Jesus Castilla is a Spanish defense official.

CASTILLA: (Speaking Spanish).

FRAYER: "Nowadays, there are so many agents like me trying to feel the pulse of Ceuta," he says. "This territory is increasingly a passageway for criminals and terrorists. It makes Spain vulnerable." It's a major recruiting hub for the self-declared Islamic State. It's also a tourist destination, with a medieval fortress and white sand beaches, and it's a city of inequality. About half of its 80,000 people are more prosperous Europeans and half are Arabic-speaking Muslims disproportionately plagued by poverty.

(CROSSTALK IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

FRAYER: At a local school for troubled youth, all the students are of Moroccan descent, like Naufal Muhamed.

NAUFAL MUHAMED: (Foreign language spoken).

FRAYER: "I speak Spanish, but I'm not as good at reading or writing," he says. That hurts his job prospects, with unemployment above 60 percent in his poor Muslim neighborhood.

MUHAMED: (Foreign language spoken).

FRAYER: "People give up. You can't spend all day looking for work when you know there isn't any," he says. "People fall into drugs and the black market because they need to eat."

(SOUNDBITE OF CATHOLIC PROCESSION)

FRAYER: Outside, a Catholic procession is drowned out by a mosque's call to prayer.

(SOUNDBITE OF CALL TO PRAYER)

FRAYER: Ceuta's Muslim birthrate is more than double that of Christians, but most positions of power are still in European hands. This is apartheid in the making, says Felix Arteaga, security researcher at Spain's Elcano Royal think tank.

FELIX ORTEGA: (Speaking Spanish).

FRAYER: "Spanish officials don't like to talk about how Ceuta's becoming more Moroccan because then they'd have to talk about the possibility of giving it up," he says. "But Ceuta's already so different from the West. We can't ignore that anymore."

For centuries, Ceuta was a strategic outpost, but now Spain spends more on welfare per capita here than any other city. African migrants keep coming by land and sea to this African city with European health care. Morocco has asked for control of Ceuta, but both the European and Arab communities here want to stay part of Spain, says local journalist Gonzalo Testa.

GONZALO TESTA: (Speaking Spanish).

FRAYER: "They're bigger Spanish nationalists than anyone. It's in their interest," he says. "When you live on the border with Africa, you realize you'd rather live in Europe."

This year, Ceuta marks 600 years as part of Europe, but Spain will have to deal with issues of inequality and security if it wants to keep Ceuta for centuries to come. For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer in Ceuta, Spain.

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