Feature Story | 11-Mar-2024

VUB Reel Borders empowers 'invisible' domestic workers on International Women's Day with launch of web doc and petition

Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Reel Borders, funded by the European Research Council (ERC) on the relationship between borders and cinema, launches a web documentary to raise awareness migrant women who work in EU border areas without legal documentation. In collaboration with the Ceuta-based NGO Digmun and the Spanish research project ' ('We are not all here'), Reel Borders highlights the precarious situation of thousands of Moroccan women working undeclared for decades in the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, on the border with Morocco. The reinforcement of border security measures imposed after COVID-19 made it impossible for them to travel to Morocco to visit their relatives or to renew their (expired) passports. 

According to the European Commission, there are approximately 10 million domestic workers in Europe. At least 3.5 million of these workers are undeclared and, therefore, lack recognition, valuation, professionalisation, and basic labour rights. 90% of them are women, and a significant proportion are undocumented migrants. The situation of these domestic workers is very precarious. They are working isolated, in private households, far away from their home country. The workers have no guaranteed workplace inspections or enforcable health and safety regulations at their job, given that these households are not considered ‘workplaces’. Finally, these women also often become victims of racist, sexist, and sexual violence, including trafficking for sexual exploitation and exclusion from access to social and public services, such as health care.  


Irene Gutiérrez, a filmmaker from Ceuta and PhD fellow of the VUB Reel Borders project, used participatory filmmaking - a method involving a group in creating their own films - to make 26 short films about the precarious situation of 13 undocumented domestic workers living in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, on the border with Morocco. All 26 shorts have been compiled into the web documentary 'ABCeuta: the Alphabet of the Border', officially launched today.   

"For Reel Borders, visibility begins with recognising what is happening on the EU's borders from the perspectives of its inhabitants. We want to amplify the voices of these women seeking action and response," says VUB professor Kevin Smets, principal investigator of Reel Borders. 


To help regularise the precarious situation of Ceuta and Melilla's undocumented domestic workers, VUB Reel Borders, the NGO Digmun (Association for the Dignity of Women and Children), and the Spanish research project 'No estamos todas' ('We are not all here') also launched an online petition today.  

Watch 'ABCeuta: the Alphabet of the Border':  https://abceuta.film/  

Sign the petition: https://www.change.org/regularisationdomesticas 


- Prof. Kevin Smets: +32473344105 Kevin.Smets@vub.be 

- Irene Gutiérrez: +34679983795 Irene.Gutierrez.Torres@vub.be 

- Reel Borders: https://reelborders.eu/ 

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