Rabat – Moroccan police have been conducting raids on the homes of sub-Saharan African migrants in Rabat, in some cases detaining those with UN refugee cards, reports Spanish news outlet El Pais.
A Guinean resident with a UN refugee card told the Spanish news agency that police entered his home in Rabat in the late afternoon of Monday, December 2, and rounded up 11 migrants and refugees who were inside.
The 23-year-old, named Alpha Mamoudou Balde, said that police took him and the 10 others to a police station already packed full of detained sub-Saharan Africans. “There were almost one hundred migrants detained,” Balde said.
With police detaining so many people at the station, there was not enough space for everyone to remain inside with many migrants standing outside the station in the rain.
Balde, who had already been living in Rabat for two years, explained that the Moroccan police released him and four of his friends about four hours later because of their UN refugee cards. “But we don’t know anything about the rest. They can take them to other southern cities or repatriate them to our country.”
Spanish pressure on Morocco to control emigration
While Moroccan police have frequently rounded up migrants in the north, a staging ground for attempts at irregular migration to Spain, Rabat has seen fewer raids, immigration activist Camille Denis told El Pais.
In 2015, 2016, and 2017, the number of migrants arriving in Spain irregularly was far lower than the numbers crossing the Mediterranean in the east or center and arriving in Greece and Italy.
Yet while the number of migrant arrivals in Greece and Italy was decreasing, more and more migrants were making the trip from Morocco to Spain successfully. In 2015, just over 5,000 migrants arrived in Spain irregularly. The figure increased to 8,000 in 2016 and jumped to 22,000 in 2017, according to the European Council on Foreign Relations.
Throughout 2018, when migrant arrivals to Spain by sea more than doubled again to over 56,000, the country called for more European aid to Morocco to increase border security and prevent irregular migration. The EU eventually pledged €148 million to help Morocco control emigration in 2018.
In 2019, migrant flows to Spain from Morocco have significantly decreased, with 23,000 irregular migrants arriving in Spain in the first nine months of the year. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez credited the decrease to Morocco’s tightened control on emigration.