African immigrants of black descent have accused Moroccan police of using excessive force, intimidation tactics and other brutal methods to force them out of the country. These allegations were made recently in Dakar, Senegal, by immigrants who were ejected from the North African kingdom for living in the country illegally.
“Moroccans are racist and xenophobic, and racist with a big R. Believe me you don’t want to live there. Me, I will never set my foot there again, never again,” a Senegal man, Abdoulaye Thiam (29) told Moon of the South.
Thiam, like thousands of black Africans who trek to Morocco every year to seek an easy passage to Europe, was disappointed that he did not reach his goals. “I had high hopes that I would find my way to Spain or somewhere in Europe by end of 2012, but it was all a web of illusions, it’s not easy,” he said.
Thousands of Senegalese, including students, business people and various hustlers, live in Morocco, taking advantage of the no-visa agreement signed between the two countries. In addition, many sub-Saharan African immigrants have also made Morocco a transit point as they wait to cross to Europe by all means.
A 40-year-old DRC woman echoed Thiam’s accusations against Moroccan security services. “They are brutal and cruel, and they hate blacks. They detain you for longer periods and transport you to the border with Algeria in the middle of the desert and leave you there on your own,” the woman identified only as Vero says.
Vero also failed in her attempt to travel to Europe via the Barca section. The Barca or Barsax phenomenon, as it is known here in West Africa, is the process whereby immigrants pay a sum of money to a syndicate to smuggle them to Europe in tiny boats from the port of Nador in north-east of Morocco. Thousands of black Africans, including women and children, have perished in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea trying to get to Europe.
More than 15 000 black Africans, including Senegalese, Congolese, Ghanaian, Sudanese and Somalians, among others, have died between 1988 and 2009 en route to Europe by boat from North Africa, according to figures released recently by the NGO Horizonte Sin Fronteras. The latest incident occurred in early November 2012 when 72 people, including 31 Senegalese men and women, were killed after the two boats they were travelling in capsized in the middle of the sea.
The European Union last year proposed a 410 million USD budget to improve border security along North Africa, which will include a deployment of drones above the Mediterranean Sea to keep an eye on illegal immigrants.
To fight this scourge, Moroccan police conduct regular patrols in cities and villages to hunt for illegal immigrants and people suspected of being middlemen or human smuggling bosses. That is when black Africans fall prey of the alleged racism and xenophobia.
Tensions have been growing in North Africa as policymakers, politicians and security forces are frustrated with the high number of black Africans flocking to Morocco and other countries. Media reports suggest that racism is everywhere in Moroccan society, including among top politicians. A Belgian newspaper, Le Soir, last year published an article in which a Moroccan MP described black African immigrants as “Libyan-trained terrorists conspiring to unhinge Morocco”.
However, a Moroccan cabinet minister has defended accusations of racism and xenophobia levelled against his country and government. Attending the Africities Summit in Dakar, Morocco interior minister Mohand Laenser justified the arrests and other operations to flush out rogue elements, saying his country was facing a surge in crime, including drug and arms trafficking, and human smuggling.
Morocco is and is still a welcoming country for all Africans, he said, adding that his country was doing its utmost best to treat every migrant fairly and caringly.
“What we ask them often is to renew their visas to ensure that they stay legally in the country,” Laenser said. He deplored, however, the lack of agreements with many countries, which he said gave Morocco no option but to transport illegal immigrants to its borders to go on their own.
*Photo: courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Black Africans squeezed into a tiny boat en route to Europe.