Towards the end of 2018 I traveled to Melilla, a Spanish enclave in North Africa bordering Moroccan territory, which holds a long past in Spanish military history. It was the place where the first movements of the Spanish coup that led to the civil war in 1936 started. The city is also currently one of the ‘special’ state territories of the European Union -which means that the movements to and from Melilla are subject to specialized immigration rules.
The youth that arrive at the border from different parts of Morocco, mainly attempt to travel as stowaways on ferry boats to cross into the Spanish peninsula. Soon after arriving at the border, I experienced the contempt and fear they received from the city inhabitants as well as the violence, corruption and abuse of power exercised by police and institutions which are supposed to protect them on both sides of the border. I started to spend time with them over the following months, struggling to photograph in such a charged, complicated and also stereotyped environment.
It was by sharing the time together that slowly the work began to occur during the moments where nothing much was happening; whilst cooking, gathering, sharing experiences, playing, or simply just waiting. Somehow these empty times and what was happening meanwhile, started to become an allegory of the situation they were going through.
It was important for me to produce images that were not sentimental, but that acknowledged the sacrifice of leaving a homelife behind, the risk, tension and adrenaline to face the police forces and that also reflected on the brotherhood, constant strategic planning and renegotiation that is required for the endeavor they have entered. The series would not have been possible without the help and love of my brother, Ayoub El Ghaouzi