First Published: 2012-11-08

 

Migrants in Morocco adamant on reaching Spanish shores

 

African migrants are ready to risk all to cross to Europe despite facing death, violence as winter looms.

 

Middle East Online

By Jalal al-Makhi - OUJDA, Morocco

Only one hope: to reach Europe

"I don't want to die of hunger and cold," says Patrick, one of many sub-Saharan migrants in Morocco desperate to reach Spanish shores and start a new life in Europe as winter approaches.

More than 90 of them, including women and children, have died in the past two weeks as they braved the perilous crossing, according to a toll calculated from reports by Spanish and Moroccan authorities and members of the African migrant community.

Spanish rescue services said last week they had saved 95 sub-Saharans travelling in 16 different vessels. But in one incident a week earlier, lifeguards pulled 14 dead migrants from the water who had set out at night in a raft.

Attempts to cross the narrow stretch of sea -- just 14 kilometres (nine miles) at its closest point -- that separates Europe from Africa, in often crowded, rickety boats, have multiplied in recent weeks, according to authorities.

In mid-October, nearly 300 would-be immigrants tried to break though the metal barrier of the Spanish enclave of Melilla in northern Morocco, which along with Ceuta is the only land border between the two continents.

Patrick, a young Cameroonian near Morocco's northeastern town of Oujda, admits to trying his luck at Melilla on 25 October, two days before the Muslim festival of Eid, along with 15 others, in what he described as a "kamikaze mission."

"There is no other solution. I don't want to die of hunger and cold without having tried," he said.

Night falls early in this part of Morocco now and a cold winter looms, prompting the homeless Africans to take their chances, before conditions worsen, and amid sometimes harsh treatment by authorities.

"We have walked dozens of kilometres in worn-out shoes and clothes, for nothing," says Patrick. The experiences he recounts chime with those frequently reported by NGOs that work with migrants in the region.

Racism and violence

"The Moroccan army and police chased us through the woods (outside Oujda). Dozens of us were hurt, others arrested," he said.

After having their photos and fingerprints taken, Patrick said the security forces took the group he was with to the Algerian border, officially closed since 1994 but now the main entry point for illegal African immigrants.

Most of them have come back and are hiding in the same woods near Oujda.

Another migrant, asking not to be identified, says he was picked up near Melilla and treated badly "by both the Moroccan and the Spanish authorities."

"They burned my passport and the HCR (UN refugee agency) document that would have granted me refugee status," the young man said. "Where is their humanity?"

Eneko Landaburu, the EU ambassador in Morocco, has raised his concerns about the "extremely worrying testimonies" of immigrants being maltreated, and local activists have alerted the authorities to acts of racism and violence.

Last week, a Moroccan weekly sparked controversy when it ran an article on the issue with "The black peril" headline splashed on its front page.

Human rights groups say between 20,000 and 25,000 sub-Saharans are currently residing illegally in Morocco.

The authorities have clamped down on the problem, with security sources saying that between May and November around 10,000 migrants were kicked out of the country, a figure almost unparalleled in recent years.

 

World leaders condemn Britain terror attack

UN-backed Syria talks restart in Geneva

10 Egyptian soldiers killed in Sinai roadside bombings

Erdogan warns Europeans risk being ‘unsafe’ on world’s streets

Saudi film festival launch postponed after sandstorm

Britain arrests eight as IS claims Westminster attack

Man attempts to drive into crowd of shoppers in Belgium’s Antwerp

Palestinian FA chief says ball in Israel's court

Israel arrests Jewish teen over anti-Semitic terror threats

An Egypt court is to reopen a corruption probe into Mubarak

Bahrain frees award-winning AFP photographer

Erdogan slams 'pressure' on Turks in Bulgaria ahead of vote

Israel policeman suspended after caught on video beating Palestinian

Turkey summons Russia envoy over soldier death in Syria

Bahrain sentences three to death for police bombings

EU summons Turkey envoy over 'safety' remarks

400,000 'trapped' in west Mosul's Old City

Qaeda, IS developing harder-to-detect bombs say experts

Terrorist attack at London’s Houses of Parliament

2016 saw sharp rise in illegal Israeli settlement projects

US-led coalition vows lasting victory against IS

Bahrain arrests photographer on unspecified charges

Humanitarian groups demand access to Yemen civilians suffering 'open-air massacre'

33 killed in US-led air strike on north Syria

Rights group says Libyan military committed war crimes

Israel seals East Jerusalem home of Palestinian attacker's family

Migrants in Europe at risk of drug-resistant tuberculosis

Iraqis urged to avoid hurried mass grave exhumations

Turkey steps up objection to US flight laptop ban

Britain joins US in banning laptops on flights from Turkey, Arab world

Anti-IS coalition gathers in Washington to hear Trump plan

Turkey links Gulen to murder of Armenian journalist

Kuwait bans hit movie ‘Beauty and the Beast’

Five dead in Mogadishu bombing

Khamenei fleshes out 'Made in Iran' vision

Turkey to ask US to reverse flight laptop ban

Israeli army says Hezbollah commander killed by own men

Kurds celebrate Newroz in Turkey's southeast despite shooting

Turkey’s AKP says no more campaign rallies in Germany

Chinese president calls for peace in meeting with Netanyahu

Iraq forces gain ground in Mosul

US bans electronic devices from cabins on Middle East flights

Erdogan says yes vote best response to 'fascist Europe'

Arab Israeli woman gets 50 months prison for joining IS

All Syria sides confirm attendance at Geneva talks