By Nahla Bendefaa
By Nahla Bendefaa
Rabat – Two Amnesty International staff members were interrogated before being expelled from Morocco on Thursday, June 11, on the basis of conducting unauthorized research.
John Dalhuisen, Director for Europe and Central Asia, and Irem Arf, Refugee and Migrant Rights ‘Researcher’, were investigating the human rights situation of migrants and refugees at Morocco’s northern borders with Spain.
The Moroccan Ministry of Interior said in a press release that both Dalhuisen and Arf did not have the necessary permission to conduct their research. The Interior Ministry also stated that they had asked the London-based human rights group to delay the research trip until both parties found a compromise in terms of the conditions of the fact-finding mission.
Amnesty International stated that it had received written and verbal assurances as recently as May 2015 during a meeting with Moroccan officials that the organization could visit the country without being required to obtain prior authorization.
The police picked up John Dalhuisen at his hotel in Rabat, while Irem Arf and her translator were stopped in Oujda. Both Dalhuisen and Arf were interviewed extensively before being sent to London and Paris, respectively.
“Moroccan authorities’ attempts to thwart Amnesty International’s work in the country, and our ability to investigate alleged human rights abuses, takes place against a backdrop of growing restrictions on local human rights groups,” said Anna Neistat, Amnesty International’s Senior Director of Research.
According to Amnesty International, this is not the first time that Moroccan authorities have hindered their work in the Kingdom. In September 2014, authorities shut down Amnesty International’s 16th Annual Youth Camp. Following that, a fact-finding delegation was denied entry in October of the same year. In November 2014, another fact-finding visit was “cancelled by the organization after the Moroccan authorities sought to impose conditions on how it could operate”.