The mule women of Melilla | DocFilm | DW | 21.04.2018
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The mule women of Melilla

The Spanish enclave of Melilla lives from the trade of second-hand goods. Carried on the shoulders of Moroccan women, these goods cross Europe's southernmost border. It’s a lucrative business for the traders, but inhumane work for the carriers.

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Moroccan citizens can take parcels weighing up to 70 kilos through the Barrio Chino border crossing as duty-free "hand luggage" almost unchecked. Nora El Koukhou is one of the human mules who cart the heavy goods across the border on their backs or on skateboards. As long as the goods are in contact with their bodies, they remain tax and duty-free. It’s a perfidious but very lucrative business for the traders and one of Melilla’s most important sources of income. But the workers - including more and more young people, as well as the old and the sick - hardly profit from this at all. They work under inhumane conditions, and if the border crossings close unexpectedly early, goods traffic backs up. Carriers like Nora struggle to survive, and merchants like Mohammed Abdelkader are stuck with their goods. The documentary follows Moroccan "mule" Nora to the Barrio Chino crossing and observes the complex schemes taking place on Europe's southernmost border.