It was 9 a.m., and hundreds of Moroccan women, many of them older, were already at work, bent over and straining, trying to inch up the hill to the border post here. Many had bundles as big as washing machines lashed to their backs.
Dozens of others, too afraid to go farther, waited off to the side with their packages, exhaustion and defeat on their faces. Up ahead, men in yellow baseball caps, some using their belts as whips, tried to control the surging crowds with little success.
“My children need to eat,” said one of the women, Rkia Rmamda, who was watching the mayhem and sobbing. “What am I going to do? I need to work.”
There is probably no more abrupt economic fault line in the world than the fences that surround Melilla and Ceuta, Spain’s enclaves on the North African coast. Here just a few rows of chain link and barbed wire separate the wealth of Europe from the despair of Africa. So faint a barrier it is, and so tempting to breach, that migrants from Africa regularly try to swarm the defense. The latest attempt was a coordinated assault by about 800 people who tried to scale the fences on Friday.