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.

 

Saudi Arabia replaces powerful intelligence chief

Invisible Bouteflika urges Algerians to vote

British paedophile gets 20-year sentence in Morocco

Washington will not issue visa for Iran UN envoy

Libyan oil returns to export market after 8-month break

Suicide bombs rock Ramadi government compound

Three Palestinians killed in Gaza blast

Algeria finally opens its piggybank to lure back exiled youth

Peace talks delayed after Palestine blamed for fatal shooting

Palestinians clash with Israeli police in Al-Aqsa

Undercover New York police unit that spied on Muslims disbanded

Syria army fights its way into besieged Homs

Benflis mobilizes ‘army’ to monitor Algeria election

Syria army advances on rebel-held neighbourhoods in Homs

Egypt court bans any Brotherhood candidacies in upcoming elections

Turkey rights groups sound alarm at plan to build gay-only prisons

Kuwait coup plot video ‘neither genuine nor reliable’

Iraq Kurdistan digs trench to prevent militant infiltration from Syria

Saudi urges stern world action against Syria

Zarif mission to mend Iran-Gulf ties begins in UAE

Results of Egypt vote appear before time in collection of signatures

South Sudan rebels demand firms end oil production

Jordan court sentences Syrian smugglers to five years in prison

Security concerns force Iraq to shut notorious Abu Ghraib prison

Turkey to social media companies: Open offices and pay taxes

Bashir bans political party meetings without permission

Shoes thrown at Jordan PM for ‘raising prices’

Jordan envoy to Libya abducted

US condemns ‘unconscionable’ threats against Libyan PM

Assailants attack Bahrain police car with Molotov cocktails

Bomb attack targets security checkpoint in Cairo

US takes issue with Assad’s upper hand claim

Militants close Iraq's Euphrates River dam

How did Bouteflika's 15 years in power bring corruption to Algeria?

Libya court adjourns trial of ex-Gathafi officials

Iran complains to UN over US visa ban to chosen envoy

Twitter executives meet Turkish officials amid tax evasion accusations

UN rights chief condemns ‘routine’ use of torture in Syria

Egypt's Sisi officially submits bid for president

Syria completes handover of nearly two-thirds of chemical weapons

Cash-strapped Hamas turns to laser-tech for police training

Syria army retakes ancient Christian town of Maalula

Hezbollah gaining new combat experience in Syria

Algerian nomads begin voting for presidential election

Israel minister slams Kerry on talks with Iran