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What Happened on Tarajal Beach?

Located at the tip of Morocco, Ceuta is an African city, overlooking the straights of Gibraltar from the Mediterranean's southern shore. Legally, however, Ceuta is a Spanish city, an anachronistic holdover from colonial days, surrounded on three sides by Moroccan land and the fourth side by the barely ten-mile straights to Europe. That makes it the rarest of places: a land border between two continents seemingly separated by sea: Europe and Africa.

Just past sundown on February 7, 2014, a group of at least 300 people attempted to overcome a border fence dividing the Moroccan and Spanish sides of a patch of wide, Mediterranean shoreline, Tarajal Beach. While a larger group attempted to scale the fence, a splinter of at least 60 people waded into the nearby water and attempted to swim around the fence, which juts about 150 meters into the surf. Spanish police fired tear gas and, allegedly, rubber bullets to drive the swimmers back. Instead, in the darkness and confusion, at least 14 men drowned, some apparently struck by shots or overcome by the gas.

What happened on Tarajal Beach remains unclear. Meanwhile, as Europe's immigration crisis deepens, pressure on the fence is growing, with the arrival of thousands of new refugees from as far away as Afghanistan. Journalist Marc Herman and photographer Andreea Campeanu look into the humanitarian crisis is growing at Europe's back door, on a beach where human rights groups are accusing Spain of having covered up a massacre.

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