Middle East

Rights group slams Morocco expulsion of migrants

This frame from a video taken on Saturday, Aug. 18, 2012 and and made available by the Italian Coast Guard Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012, migrants are rescued by Italian Coast Guard officials, on the coasts of the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, southern Italy. (AP Photo/Italian Coast Guard)

RABAT: A Moroccan rights group on Thursday slammed the authorities' harsh treatment and expulsion of sub-Saharan illegal immigrants, after hundreds were deported in a swoop that began earlier this week.

"The human rights violations against immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa have become systematic in our country," the Moroccan Association of Human Rights (AMDH) said in a statement.

"The state is responsible for the safety and security of the migrants, but instead they are subjected to beatings, both by the authorities and by hired thugs, or sent to the Algerian border," added Morocco's largest rights group.

It said those expelled included pregnant women and small children, and warned that the "continuing attacks" on African immigrants were "feeding racism and encouraging the citizens of Morocco to turn against them."

Moroccan authorities have clamped down on unregulated immigrants in recent days, with the AMDH saying 35 of them were expelled on Wednesday night from the eastern border town of Oujda.

Early on Tuesday morning, Spain and Morocco cooperated in evicting 73 African migrants who had swum to a tiny Spanish islet just off the North African coast in a desperate bid to reach mainland Europe.

And on Monday, some 200 sub-Saharans were expelled from the country, most of them from the northern towns of Tetouan and Nador, close to the two Spanish territories of Ceuta and Melilla.

Medical charity Doctors Without Border (MSF) has also expressed concern about the vulnerability of sub-Saharan migrants in northeast Morocco, saying the number of people it treated for violence-caused injuries more than doubled between April and July.

"Many of these people were wounded as they tried to escape arrest or as they tried to jump over the border fences," MSF's Morocco director David Cantero said.

Government spokesman Mustapha Khalfi told AFP that the authorities were open to dialogue with the concerned organisations on the "challenge" of managing illegal immigration.

He added, however, that Morocco was "not just a transit country, but also a host country, which has social implications."

According to different humans rights organisations, between 20,000 and 25,000 unregistered sub-Saharan migrants reside in Morocco.

The expelled sub-Saharans are usually sent back to the officially-closed Algerian border crossing near Oujda, the main entry point for African migrants coming into the country.





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