Morocco Cracks Down on Hundreds of Europe-Bound Sub-Saharan Migrants

EFE/Francisco G. Guerrero

Rabat – Following allegations that Morocco is not controlling its borders, the country has cracked down on hundreds of sub-Saharan immigrants bound for Europe.

Police patrols and raids have recently succeeded in rounding up hundreds of sub-Saharan migrants trying to reach Europe to relocate them to cities in southern Morocco, local human right advocacy groups have reported.

Police raids reportedly intensified last week in northern Morocco, especially in Nador and Tangier, the two most “trafficked” departure points that migrants use for the hazardous journey to Spain by sea.

The arrests, as local human rights groups have described them, come a month after the European Commission cut a €55 million deal to financially assist Morocco and Tunisia in containing the increasing number of Europe-bound immigrants.

In Nador alone, AFP reported, Moroccan authorities stormed immigrant camps and apartments, busing between 600 and 800 migrants to interior towns and cities, kilometers away from the sea and the Morocco-Spain border at the Spanish enclave of Melilla.

‘Illegal arrests’

The Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH) has lamented the move, calling it illegal and unmindful of basic human rights. The association told AFP that migrants who have been bused away from Nador and Tangier were often handcuffed and some of their belongings were seized while police destroyed their camps.

Omar Naji, an AMDH representative, said that there were no court orders for the wave of arrests and that Spain, Morocco, and the EU were “responsible” for the harsh and “illegal” police crackdown.

According to AFP, some of the arrested migrants were put in buses prepared for the purpose and then dropped 1,000 kilometers away near the town of Tiznit on the Atlantic, 900 kilometers from the Mediterranean. Others were reportedly taken southeast to cities near the Algerian border.

‘Move to better living conditions’

Despite widespread condemnation from local activists and human rights advocacy groups, Moroccan authorities remain convinced that the move was necessary to dissuade would-be immigrants from crossing to EU countries.

A government official referred to the move as a “mission in the fight against illegal immigration.” He explained that rather than cracking down on migrants, the police brought between 1,600 and 1,800 migrants to places with “better living conditions.”

Rabat and its EU partners have recently agreed on greater logistical and financial cooperation to limit the number of migrants taking to the sea to cross to Europe.

On Saturday, August 11, Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, and Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, called for a “united European front” to face the migration crisis. They requested that more assistance be extended to partner countries such as Morocco and Tunisia, who are helping Europe secure its borders amid the growing challenge of mass human mobility across the Mediterranean.

“We have to intensify our support for Morocco and Tunisia. They are border countries and they need our help,” Merkel said .