BEIRUT

Middle East

NGOs condemn Morocco 'silence' over migrant crisis warning

In this photo taken on Friday March 28, 2014, Riot police officers cordon off the area blocking a road as sub-Saharan migrants sit on top of a metallic fence that divides Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Melilla. (AP Photo/Santi Palacios)

RABAT: Activists condemned Tuesday Morocco's "total silence" over warnings about the plight of sub-Saharan migrants, accusing security forces of "barbaric acts" that contradicted the country's new migration policy.

Last month, following a surge in attempted border crossings into Ceuta and Melilla, Spain's North African enclaves, Moroccan authorities relocated hundreds of illegal immigrants to the capital.

That "forced displacement" was denounced by a network of 10 NGOs working with migrants in Morocco and treating their wounds and who warned of a "humanitarian crisis."

Roman Catholic charity Caritas closed its Rabat office in protest.

"Three weeks later, this appeal has not received any response from any government department," the NGOs said in a joint statement on Monday.

"Even though anyone might encounter wounded migrants in the capital itself... our organisations have met with total silence," they added.

Mehdi Alioua, president of migrant support group GADEM, blamed Morocco's auxiliary forces -- a supplementary branch of the security forces -- for betraying the government's new migration policy, announced last year and aimed at dealing more humanely with the growing problem.

"We don't understand why they strike the heads and the shins of migrants and steal their possessions," he told a press conference.

"We were in a state of euphoria after the king called for a radical change of policy. We believed that this type of violence would end. We don't understand why we still come across barbaric acts."

Alioua said that, despite their disappointment, the NGOs wanted to work "in good faith" with the government to help the migrants.

"But clearly the auxiliary forces do not want to, because they don't even obey the wishes of the palace."

The Moroccan authorities did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The GADEM president also blamed Spain and the European Union for the harsh treatment of illegal immigrants in northern Morocco.

"A significant number of wounded migrants brought to Rabat were injured by (Spain's) Civil Guard. They also beat them and systematically violate international law by sending the migrants back across the border," Alioua claimed, accusing Madrid of planning "even more repression."

Morocco is clearly struggling to cope with a rising tide of sub-Saharan Africans heading to its northern shores in their bid to reach Europe.

In response to international criticism of its crackdown on migrants, Rabat announced that it would halt deportations to Algeria, and vowed to strengthen procedures for accommodating the estimated 30,000 people residing illegally on its soil.

Since a scheme to "regularise" their papers was launched in January, some 13,000 applications have been received, but only around 500 migrants have been granted residency permits allowing them to stay and work in Morocco.

 

Recommended

Advertisement

Comments

Your feedback is important to us!

We invite all our readers to share with us their views and comments about this article.

Disclaimer: Comments submitted by third parties on this site are the sole responsibility of the individual(s) whose content is submitted. The Daily Star accepts no responsibility for the content of comment(s), including, without limitation, any error, omission or inaccuracy therein. Please note that your email address will NOT appear on the site.

comments powered by Disqus
Summary

Activists condemned Tuesday Morocco's "total silence" over warnings about the plight of sub-Saharan migrants, accusing security forces of "barbaric acts" that contradicted the country's new migration policy.

Mehdi Alioua, president of migrant support group GADEM, blamed Morocco's auxiliary forces -- a supplementary branch of the security forces -- for betraying the government's new migration policy, announced last year and aimed at dealing more humanely with the growing problem.

Alioua said that, despite their disappointment, the NGOs wanted to work "in good faith" with the government to help the migrants.

In response to international criticism of its crackdown on migrants, Rabat announced that it would halt deportations to Algeria, and vowed to strengthen procedures for accommodating the estimated 30,000 people residing illegally on its soil.


Advertisement

FOLLOW THIS ARTICLE

Interested in knowing more about this story?

Click here