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"Nothing is true, nor is it a lie?" by Nieves Garcia Benito
01 July 2003
Pictures of: i) two people sunbathing while a dead migrant lies nearby and ii) a coffin being
removed from a beach where people in the backgound are playing: Pictures taken by Javier Balauz
The following essay is a testimony from Tarifa, Spain, the nearest point to Africa in mainland
Europe, by Nieves García Benito, who works for the Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos
- Andalucía (Association for Human Rights - Andalucía). It highlights the frustration of
someone with first-hand knowledge of the arrival of dinghies laden with migrants on the
beach, accompanied by a steady stream of corpses that are washed up on the shore.
She addresses a debate that took place in Spain about whether there is indifference by the
West towards the deaths of African would-be migrants, that started around a picture that
was shot by photographer Javier Balauz (Pictures taken by Javier Balauz
), of two
tourists sunbathing while the corpse of a man who died trying to make the crossing from
Morocco lay further along the beach. Looking at the situation in the Strait of Gibraltar,
Nieves García Benito argues that there are hidden interests served by the current situation,
and that while there there are hundreds of dead people who are not killed by anybody, a
different immigration law, or even the absence of an immigration law, would save hundreds
"Nothing is true, nor is it a lie?"
by Nieves García Benito
"On 13 July 2001, photographer Javier Bauluz shot the image, on a beach in Tarifa, of a
couple of beach-goers - on the left - sitting under an umbrella and, somewhat further - to
the right -, the dead body of a drowned immigrant man. The author entitled the photograph
"The Indifference of the West". The picture travelled all around the world, and was even
published in the New York Times.
The journalist Arcadi Espada, winner of the Espasa de Ensayo prize for his book "Diarios",
wrote an article about this picture in which he tries to discredit the image itself by stating that
it is fictitious, and as such, doesn´t show the truth. That, as a result of being taken from a
deceptive angle, it doesn´t show a real image, and much less the indifference of the West
towards the deaths in the Strait of Gibraltar.
The debate itself may seem the typical exchange of blows between colleagues from the
same profession, or the old dispute between truth and fiction, which besides, is very much a
current debate. If I may, it could even seem to be a discussion at the bar of a pub.
Nonetheless, as the object of contention are different points of view, different glances, over
a space, the Strait of Gibraltar, where, for the last 14 years, there has been no stopping the
flow of corpses arriving to its northern shore, from here, from Tarifa, we want to contribute
a little more information, so that the readers´ glance may be enriched and may start building
up its vision from a wider foundation. This is our hope.
What is happening in the Strait of Gibraltar?
As a result of the Spanish Ley de Extranjería 4/2000, whose origins lie in the 1990
Schengen European Treaty, the large majority of sub-Saharan and Moroccan citizens who
apply for entry visas to Europe have their applications denied. With a visa, they would cross
the Strait in a ferry, which would result in the problem of the corpses disappearing. As the
law precludes this possibility, the citizens, who are pushed to migrate by the economic
conditions in their country, and are aware of economic circumstances in Europe, where
there is wealth, and consequently employment, see themselves obl