Rabat - On Friday, November 24, a number of videos shared on social media showed the violent clash scenes between sub-Saharan migrants and Moroccan citizens in Casablanca’s Ouled Ziane bus station. The press reported many conflicting versions of the circumstances of the incident, which sparked an intense debate about the treatment of migrants in Morocco.
Rabat – On Friday, November 24, a number of videos shared on social media showed the violent clash scenes between sub-Saharan migrants and Moroccan citizens in Casablanca’s Ouled Ziane bus station. The press reported many conflicting versions of the circumstances of the incident, which sparked an intense debate about the treatment of migrants in Morocco.
To understand the issue, Morocco World News conducted an interview with Bilal Jouhari, the communication manager for Anti-racist Group for the Defense and Accompaniment of Foreigners and Immigrants (GADEM). GADEM is the leading Moroccan association that is interested in migrants rights and the issues they face in the country.
In this interview, the GADEM activist warned against hateful rhetoric that some people showed after the clash. Bilal has also said that Moroccan authorities hold major responsibility for the violence.
Jouhari explained that people who blamed the migrants for the fighting in the Ouled Ziane clash do not understand that those migrants are not demanding to stay in Morocco.
In your opinion, was the Ouled Ziane incident predictable?
Yes, it was predictable. It was apparent and it did not shock me, to be honest. Bringing people by force here while the only thing they want is to reach Europe is not the right thing to do. They do not want anything from Morocco. They are not here to regularize their status. They are here to leave for Europe.
Can you explain your point?
Those migrants were living in forests near the Spanish enclave of Melilla and Ceuta. However, Moroccan authorities raided migrant camps in 2015, stripping down hundreds of makeshift homes at a time when a nationwide campaign was settled in Morocco to grant residency to many undocumented immigrants.
Why were these migrants living in camps in the Ceuta and Melilla borders?
They were living there as they were waiting for a chance to cross the borders and enter to Ceuta, to climb the Melilla border wall, or to cross the ocean by boat in order to reach Spain.
What happened to those people after the dismantling of their camps?
After dismantling their camps, Moroccan authorities relocated the migrants throughout interior cities of the country, including Tiznit, Inzgan, and Fez.
The migrants, however, have thought of Morocco as a crossing point, not a place where they want to settle in.
Subsequently, the migrants then find themselves a shelter wherever possible, settling down in a bus station with the same lifestyle they had in the forests. But they went there only to collect money in order to take the bus that will take them to a place near the border.
How can you explain people’s reaction after the Ouled Ziane Incident?
Generalizing that all migrants are causing a threat to the society is a huge mistake. When people read about what happened they blamed the migrants, calling for their removal from the area. However, what they do not really understand is that those migrants are not willing to stay and they are not seeking regularization. They are here because of the Moroccan authorities brought them here.
Who to blame for the incident?
Moroccan authorities are the one to blame for bringing them here by force, without even providing them with proper accommodation. The authorities should find responsible measures like reviewing migrant policies with the European Union, to allow those migrants safely cross the borders. But if the Moroccan authorities are pledging to keep the migrants in Morocco then they should find a reasonable solution to keep them here.
Do you believe that the repatriation of migrants would solve the issue?
Absolutely not. The repatriation of migrants will never be a solution for the current problem. This is not the right way to fix a problem. Let us imagine that the authorities repatriated them. What’s next? Should we surround the Moroccan borders with walls in order to not let people in? The borders that link Morocco and its neighbors are already closed. Even if they can find a way to prevent them from crossing borders, those who want to immigrate will surely create an alternative. Since the Moroccan authorities brought those migrants here, and since many Moroccan politicians claim that they brought them to rescue them, then they should find alternative solutions.
What kind of solutions?
The country should suggest a humanitarian solution instead of just bringing them inside to rescue them from being killed in the ocean. They should be offered with housing centers. Burning their camps and bringing them here without appropriate places to shelter them is not a humanitarian initiative. Unfortunately, even Moroccan homeless cannot find themselves a place where they can stay.