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.

 

US denies everything agreed on Iran nuclear deal

Iraqi forces liberate Tikrit after month-long battle

Palestine officially joins ICC

Arab coalition bombards rebels in Yemen's Aden

Ancient Libyan treasures now in ISIS' sights

Money over power for Turkey and Iran

Yemen FM calls for coalition to send ground troops

ISIS captures Yarmuk refugee camp in Damascus

Israel to African migrants: Leave or face jail

Turkish authorities detain leftists

Gazans hope ICC will get justice for Israel’s 'war crimes'

Egypt president urges Huthi rebels to 'back off'

Armed group takes prosecutor hostage in Istanbul

Palestine must wait for its day in court

UN rights chief expresses alarm on Yemen situation

Suicide blast in Iraq on bus carrying Iranian pilgrims

Arab coalition pounds Yemeni capital

Iraq forces ‘retake’ government HQ in Tikrit

Massive power cut causes chaos across Turkey

Kuwait emir pledges $500 million at Syria donors conference

Iran nuclear talks enter their final day

Assad does not see Russia, Iran interests in Syria

Confidence in Tunisia ability to rebound as museum reopens to public

Iran claims US drone killed two military advisers in Iraq

Court finds ex-Israel Premier Olmert guilty in corruption retrial

Deadly air strike hits camp for displaced people in northwest Yemen

Erdogan insists on visit to Iran despite war-of-words

UN chief in Iraq for talks with top officials

UN warns of horrifying Syria 'catastrophe'

Iran asks for explanation on Erdogan comments

One day to Iran nuclear talks deadline

Yemen ex-president's son sacked as ambassador to UAE

At time of war, cigar business launched in Syria

Yemen Huthi rebels bombed for fifth night

Saudi police officers wounded in Riyadh drive-by shooting

World leaders show solidarity with Tunisia in march against extremism

Guarded optimism as Iran nuclear talks close in on deal

Dialogue remains distant as Arabs vow to defeat Iran 'puppet' in Yemen

Egypt renews calls for creation of joint military force at Arab summit

Saudi ambassador to return to Sweden after diplomatic spat

Libya forces ‘withdraw’ from frontline bases near oil ports

Qaeda seizes 'majority' of Syria northwestern city of Idlib

Torturous Iran talks move into top gear in battle of wills

UN Security Council keeps Libya arms embargo in place

Saudi-led airstrikes target arms depots in Yemen capital