Spanish Migrant Rights Activist Barred From Returning to Morocco


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Rabat – The Moroccan Minister of State in charge of Human Rights, Mustapha Ramid, denies any knowledge of Morocco’s attempts to “silence” the Spanish migrant rights activist, Helena Maleno, according to Associated Press.

Maleno has accused both the Spanish and Moroccan authorities of trying to “silence her,” reports the Associated Press (AP). And yet, both Moroccan and Spanish authorities deny any knowledge or involvement with such efforts.

When Morocco World News reached out, the Moroccan Ministry of State in charge of Human Rights did not answer any questions.

Maleno, who founded the Caminando Fronteras group, said that Moroccan authorities are trying to suppress her activism by barring her from returning to her home in Tangier, northern Morocco, from where she has worked for the last two decades.

A spokesman for the Moroccan police directorate, Boubker Sabik, told AP that the Justice Ministry and Tangier police are collecting information about the case before they can make any official statement.

Read also: How Morocco Can Protect Migrants in Efforts Against Human Trafficking

Besides her public activism, Melano’s organization acts as a lifeline for migrants who are trying to reach Europe by crossing from Morocco to Spain. The organization alerts rescuers when something befalls the migrant boats attempting to make the crossing.

According to migrant rights acivist, she was denied re-entry into Morocco on January 23. Ever since Rabat denied Melano a new residence permit in 2018, she has left the country every three months, as per Morocco’s tourist visa requirements. In January, upon her arrival at Tangier’s airport, Moroccan police denied her entry and asked her to return to Barcelona, Spain.

“They want us silenced,” claimed the activist.

According to the international news organization, the Spanish Interior Ministry denied any involvement in the activist’s return to Spain.

In fact, Morocco charged Maleno in 2017 for allegedly colluding with human traffickers to illegally move people across borders. However, in March 2019, the court dropped the charges, citing the lack of evidence for a crime.

In 2020, a year marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, most irregular migration routes saw shrinking border crossings. The Western Mediterranean, primarily Spain, recorded 17,000 arrivals, a 28% decrease compared to 2019.

Meanwhile, as a result of Morocco’s continued success in stopping attempted irregular migration operations bound for mainland Spain, now, undocumented migrants passing through Morocco seek new routes, such as crossing the Atlantic towards the Canary Islands. 

The Canaries experienced record growth of undocumented migration in 2020, with over 22,600 irregular border crossings detected on the Western African migratory route. With an increase of eight times compared to 2019, this was the highest number of irregular border crossings via that route that Frontex has recorded since it began collecting data in 2009.

In today’s volatile environment, migrants are in a particularly vulnerable position, whether traveling to Europe through Morocco or remaining in Morocco, undocumented. There is a direct link between trafficking and migrant smuggling, as traffickers often abuse the financial strain of migrants engaged in the latter to, often forcibly, involve them in trafficking schemes.