Mohammed, who made it to Spain in part to find adventure and escape compulsory military service in Algiers, has had his autonomy stripped away by a performative political system designed to deter migrants from leaving home in the first place. In the process, he may have sacrificed “the best years of his life” for nothing.

What I found was an entirely different story: a generation of young men for whom the greatest barrier to starting a new life was not physical but bureaucratic. They were effectively held prisoner by a byzantine application process so interminable that people had begun scaling the fences — to escape and return to their home countries.

He seemed to sense he stood little chance of being granted the right to stay, but he felt unable to concede that he had spent so much time here for nothing.