Rabat - Authorities have arrested 30 sub-Saharan undocumented migrants in Nador, a city in north-eastern Morocco.
Rabat – Authorities have arrested 30 sub-Saharan undocumented migrants in Nador, a city in north-eastern Morocco.
Their arrests, on July 29, came after a police operation on buses, where, despite having paid for their tickets, the 30 migrants were detained and refused reimbursement.
The group of migrants were separated in their detention. The first 20 migrants were taken to a military camp. After 26 hours of detention, they were released in Toussit, a town south of Oujda near the border with Algeria.
According to the Nador branch of the Moroccan Association of Human Rights (AMDH) who was in contact with the detained migrants and posting updates on their Facebook page, a member of the security forces told the first group, “You’re lucky because the second group will be sent back to the Algerian-Moroccan border.”
The second group of 10 migrants included women of Senegalese, Malian, Guinean, and Burkinabe descent. They were detained in military barracks until Tuesday morning, and have now lost all contact with the AMDH Nador. Their location is unknown.
AMDH writes, “Their phones do not work anymore. They may be unloaded or have been seized by Moroccan authorities.”
Sub-Saharan migrants in Morocco
Over the past years, the number of sub-Saharan migrants has steadily increased. According to the Pew Research Center, sub-Saharan African nations have accounted for 8 of the 10 fastest growing international migrant populations since 2010.
Many sub-Saharan migrants use Morocco as a transit point for reaching Europe, even if it entails multiple attempted crossings. In 2017, the number of illegal border crossings of the Morocco’s western Mediterranean Sea route tripled, as migrants seek the Spanish territories of Melilla and Ceuta.
Morocco must be diplomatic in balancing its relations with both other African nations and the European Union when dealing with sub-Saharan migrants. In 2014, Morocco launched reforms funded by the EU to encourage migrants to stay in Morocco.
The European Union in return has praised Morocco on its migrant policy, which as King Mohammed VI underlined in 2016 “is rooted in humanitarian values, designed to make sure migrants’ rights and dignity are safeguarded.”
Criticism of the operations
Yet, in Morocco’s difficult balancing act, certain issues still remain. While Morocco attempts to retain diplomacy in its dealings with sub-Saharan migrants, AMDH Nador has been critical of police operations which target sub-Saharan Africans.
In a statement to Yabiladi, Omar Naji, the president of the local chapter of the AMDH, said that operations are “fairly common in the city” even when the reasons for the arrest remain unknown.
AMDH states “while the big traffickers live peacefully and circulate freely in Nador, the Nador authorities continue to hunt down and arrest the simple migrants.”
With Facebook as a platform, AMDH Nador has used its posts to expose the main traffickers and mafia organizations which have exploited migrants through extortionate payments and passport seizures.
The Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH) has also raised concerns over the expulsion of migrants to the Algerian-Moroccan border due to its terrain as a “desert area” and “no man’s land.”
In a statement made public and signed by vice president Said Salhi, the LADHH calls on the Moroccan government to “give up” the operations “in the middle of the summer when heat poses a risk to the health and safety to the migrants.”
The arbitrary deportation operations in the extreme climate and environment imperils the rights and dignity of migrants and refuges, contrary to international conventions and rights.
By Isabella Wang