James von Leyden: The Missing of Tangier

Christina/ June 14, 2024/ Culture

“The Missing of Tangier” is Leyden’s second novel. I became aware of the first book, titled “Shadows over Marrakech,” in my trusted library due to its subtitle “A Morocco Crime Story.” As an economist specializing in the Arab world, I dive into anything related to the Middle East or North Africa. While the first crime novel focuses on Lieutenant Karim Belkacem’s exploration of the Moroccan societal view of women through a serial killer, the second part delves into a topic extending beyond the North African country: counterfeit medications and the trafficking of refugees.

A true case
The book is set 12 years after the border security agreement between the EU and Morocco. Among other events, it depicts the storming of the border fence at Melilla, including the brutal suppression by Moroccan border police. In von Leyden’s crime story, corrupt officials profit from the hopes of young Africans seeking a better life in Europe. One of them, named Joseph, becomes friends with Belkacem as they search for the murderer of their police friend, Abdou.

Drug baron Mohammed Kharraz also plays a significant role in von Leyden’s novel. Not as a trafficker but as the head of a security firm, he orchestrates crimes committed on the freighter “Mustafa.” Migrants are deceived with false promises into containers by him, purportedly for transport across the sea to Spain. However, once the ship departs, the containers with people are thrown into the Atlantic. Water quickly floods in through an air vent, drowning the occupants who find a cold grave on the seabed.

“The lucrative business of counterfeit medications”
Of course, Kharraz does not act alone. His ally is the judicial police of Tangier. And that’s not all. In this crime story, it turns out that the masterminds behind the murders are Chinese. They seek to protect their trade in counterfeit medicines, a lucrative business that according to WHO estimates claims around 10,000 lives annually in Africa.

Agreements with countries where dubious human rights practices prevail are funded with our tax money. Yet “we” barely address the root causes of refugee flows; we merely treat the symptoms. Why is politics, why is society not at least honest enough with itself to recognize that we live at the expense of others, driven by our hunger for resources and other commodities? Is it really surprising then that people from other parts of the world also seek a piece of happiness?

The perilous journey to paradise
And for those who still think that refugees and migrants can easily travel to the supposed paradise, just as we do 3-4 times a year, they should watch the film “Journey of Hope” and reconsider whether they would undertake and survive the same journey.

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