Rut Skrie explains how her association is dealing with the migration crisis in Ceuta. “We are helping, but very discreetly because the people here were overwhelmed and afraid”.
On Monday 17 May, a group of friends were on a beach in Ceuta celebrating a birthday. The placid and joyful evening was interrupted by a phone call: the sister of one of the guests begged them to return home.
“Two thousand migrants have come in” , she said. “We thought she was exaggerating or had got the number wrong. A few minutes later, another call informed us that there were four thousand. We couldn't believe it. It seemed impossible, but then we started hearing sirens and the sound of helicopters”, Rut Skrie told Spanish news website Protestante Digital.
Since then, the national and international press published shocking news and photos. The number of migrants who swam from Morocco rose to eight thousand, many of whom were turned back. Three people died before reaching the beach.
Today Ceuta is trying to regain its normal rhythm and the police continue to patrol the streets. The exact number of those who remain hidden, sleeping in the open, is not known.
“They come out at certain times in small groups to ask for food, clothes, blankets. Some say there are a thousand, others believe there are more than 1,500”, says Rut.
Skrie, who runs the association Acción + Vida (Action + Life) with her husband Fabian, explains that “the city was in shock, the children didn't go to school last week and we had to suspend classes because the students didn't come. This week we are starting up again, but not at a normal pace yet”.
At the Acción + Vida premises, she, her husband and a group of volunteers of different nationalities, tutor children in English and Spanish and have a literacy class for women.
The association has helped newly arrived migrants, although not as openly as they would have liked. “We have gone out to hand out masks, sandwiches, clothes, but very discreetly because the people here, who are generally very supportive, were overwhelmed and afraid. I even heard a lady who usually helps migrants tell them to go back to Morocco, because that is not the way to come”.
“We have also seen some people who did not dare to go out, but nevertheless threw clothes from the balconies. We must maintain good relations with our neighbours, helping without their disapproval. One day I made a big pot of couscous and I left it in the corner, so that they didn't see me handing it out, and the young people could come and eat”.
Ruth points out that along with the clothes and food, they have also handed out copies of the New Testament (Injil) and “many migrants were grateful and some kissed it when they received it”.
Friday is usually a special day at the association because they organise an evangelistic tea for women. Last Friday, amidst the atmosphere of uncertainty and confusion, the meeting was dedicated to praying for the city. Muslim and Christian women joined to pray.
That same day, a Moroccan man and a sad-looking girl, about six or seven years old, who had crossed the border three days earlier, came to the association. The girl's mother had already left for the mainland, hung up on a ferry, and they were sleeping in the street.
“We gave them clothes, breakfast, toys... The man is a professional chef and left his country in search of a better future. This Monday, six or seven young sub-Saharan Africans also came, looking for clothes, food and blankets. I don't know what will happen to them. They are ready for anything and don't measure the consequences; I fear that many will die trying to cross to the mainland”, laments Rut.
Faced with this new reality, the Skries have realised that no matter how much the authorities move children and young people to centres in other cities, many will stay in Ceuta and others will continue to arrive.
“Our goal now is to create a trade school for young people and women. We will soon launch a fundraising campaign, and we hope to have volunteers from Spain and other countries. We would like to provide job training to anyone, whether they have papers or not, but we will see what the authorities allow us to do”, she underlines.
In June, they will receive a group of Christians from the peninsula and will go out with them to distribute face masks, clothes, food and copies of Injil, without distinction of the legal status of the recipients.
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