By Josh Babb
Rabat – The briefing detailed one large irregular migration network composed of 20 leaders which intelligence services dubbed the “schleuser lodge.” The report said the network was the main trafficker of migrants along western Mediterranean routes beginning in early 2017.
Irregular migration from Morocco to Europe has increased 150 percent since 2014 on average. The networks usually take one of three different crossing routes from Morocco to Spain; through the strait of Gibraltar, through the sea of Alboran in the western Mediterranean, and on the Atlantic from Larache to Cadiz.
The smuggling network charges migrants €1,000 for up to three attempted crossings and an additional €2,000 for safe shelter in Spain if they cross successfully. In the event a migrant dies attempting to cross, the network returns the money to their family.
Morocco has become a popular destination for sub-Saharan migrants hoping to make it to Europe, due to its proximity to Europe and the fact that many do not need a visa to enter Morocco.
In early October a Spanish news outlet reported that Spain had repeatedly expressed Morocco’s concerns regarding irregular migration to the EU in an effort to provide the country with extra resources to curb such attempts and dismantle trafficking networks.
In September the Moroccan Navy faced criticism after firing on a go-fast migrant boat attempting to reach Spain, subsequently killing Hayat Belkacem, a 20-year-old Moroccan woman, and wounding three other migrants.
Authorities are also cracking down on land, entering neighborhoods populated by migrants and sometimes forcing relocation. “The police in Tangier were brutal. They entered our homes, cracked down on sub-Saharans, and arrested us regardless of whether you are a [legally resident] student or irregular migrant,” one Guinean migrant named Alpha told Morocco World News.
Regardless of such measures, it is unclear what, if anything will persuade migrants to stop trying to make the journey north and relinquish their hopes to achieve the “European dream.”