"Our dream is behind that mountain" - Ceuta migrant

Yasser El-Shada lives in a poverty-stricken Moroccan town.

He thought he’d found a route to a better life on Monday (May 17), when border controls with Ceuta, a Spanish enclave just down the road, appeared to ease.

So he joined his best friend - and an estimated crowd of 8,000 migrants on a journey across the sea.

"We went from there (Fnideq) down to the sea, swam to the borders, and entered Ceuta... There was also a woman who had a one-month baby girl, she swam with the baby and entered with us. She put her in a plastic bag and swam to the borders. There was also a father with his wife and two little children, he did the same thing, everyone entered from there."

Yasser made it to Ceuta beach, but he says the harsh welcome he received persuaded him to return home again.

He's now one of thousands who have already been expelled back to Morocco.

"The Spanish were very racist. I couldn't bear one more minute there... we were very tired and they were beating us with big batons. If they saw us sitting down, they would beat us on our legs to stand up. We tried to sit on some other place but they followed us and beat us again. We could not stand because of the pain and it was very cold so we decided to come back."

A ministry source told Reuters the security forces were scrupulous in not mistreating migrants. And police spent time helping those in the sea who needed assistance.

Morocco’s apparent loosening of border controls has been widely interpreted as retaliation to Spain's hosting of a Western Sahara independence leader.

Rights group Amnesty International said Spanish security forces had used violence, including beating migrants or throwing them into the sea.

It also accused Morocco of using migrants as pawns in its dispute with Spain.

On Thursday (May 20), Spain's defence minister accused Morocco of "blackmail" over its passivity in the situation.

Spain has beefed up its border security in Ceuta.

But hundreds more Moroccans and sub-Saharan Africans still attempted to enter.

Yasser was not among them, but says he will try to cross again.

"This is not a dream, it is only a bridge to cross to my dream. Our dream is behind this mountain, not there, that is only a road."

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