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.

 

Netanyahu warns Congress: Nuclear deal will free Iran to develop weapons

Two killed in Cairo bomb blast

US controlling ‘moderate’ Syrian rebels

Yemen leader proposes reconciliation talks to be moved to Saudi

South Sudan's oil wells pose environmental hazard

Bottle of juice vs. outspoken critic of Israel domestic policies

UN approves sanctions regime for South Sudan

Arab states to mull creation of joint force against ‘Islamic State’

Libya tit-for-tat airstrikes target airport, oil terminal

Iran holds memorial service for ‘Afghan volunteers’ killed in Syria

South Sudan general accused of abducting child soldiers

Netanyahu takes fight over Iran nuclear ambitions to Congress

UN delegation meets Aleppo governor to push ‘freeze’ plan

Jihadists use urban warfare to slow Tirkit adavance

Libya warplanes strike militia-controlled airport

Egypt court cancels call for parliamentary elections in March

Saudi diplomat kidnapped by Qaeda in Yemen released

Obama lashes out at Netanyahu over Iran

Tunisia blogger jailed for 6 months for defaming army

Erdogan in Riyadh as Saudi Arabia seeks to re-energise foreign policy

Palestinians prepare to lodge first war crimes complaint against Israel

Turkey probes soldier for failure to resist ‘Islamic State’

US envoy to Yemen throws support behind President Hadi

Libya recognized parliament names Haftar as chief of armed forces

How Islamic is ‘Islamic State’?

Separate battles rage on against IS in key border area

Reconciliation with Iran proves far from simple for Hamas

Before UN rights panel, Kerry delivers vigorous defense of Israel

Turkey explores for oil in Iraqi Kurdistan

Two killed in Egypt bomb blast

Egypt leader visits Saudi Arabia

Syria opposition hails France's anti-Assad ‘exemplary’ stance

Police, anti-shale gas protesters clash in Algeria

Baghdad launches military operation to retake Tikrit

Netanyahu puts US-Israel ties under strain

First Iran flight lands in Huthi-held Yemen capital

Egypt President meets Saudi King Salman for talks on bilateral ties

Netanyahu flies to Washington to press case against Iran nuclear deal

Court ruling may force delay of Egypt parliamentary elections

Yemen separatists suspend participation in UN-sponsored talks

Scores dead as car bombs target crowded market in Iraq capital

Iran shrugs off Netanyahu bid to abort nuclear deal

Egypt lists Hamas as terrorist organisation

Jailed Kurdish leader calls on followers to lay down arms

Dozens dead as Qaeda takes strategic rebel base in Syria