Tangier, Morocco – A forest in a poor neighbourhood on the outskirts of Tangier, a tourist town in Morocco‘s northeast, acts as a last stop for African migrants before they attempt the perilous journey into Europe.
Here, they sleep on discarded, stained mattresses, cook a meal a day using firewood and wash their clothes from rainwater collected in metal cans.
However, with no roof over their heads, there is no place to hide from the rain.
In the middle of all this, Amale ponders his next move, sitting on a log. He is almost 4,500km from home, but fewer than 25km from Spain, which was his dream destination when he left Sierra Leone a year ago.
There are more than 20 other African migrants taking shelter in the forest with him. Some of them are excited to be so close to Europe. Others, after hearing about the risks associated with crossing the Mediterranean, are re-evaluating their options.
More than 2,000 migrants have died while attempting to cross the Mediterranean this year. The risk, along with the lack of money and fear of the authorities, forced Amale to change his mind.
“It’s too dangerous. I’ve already spent more than eight million leones ($930) and more than 12 months on this trip. I want to go home,” Amale told Al Jazeera.
Nature is not the migrants’ only nemesis. The police routinely raid the forest and take them to the south of the country, where they beg on the streets to save up just about enough to return to this forest.
Once they are back under the trees, the migrants start saving again. This time for a spot on the boat that will take them to Spain.