morocco/spain: deportations and death

08.Oct.05 - On 6 October 2005 six more migrants were shot at the border between Morocco and Melilla. The same evening Spain started with deportations of non Moroccan immigrants to Morocco. While migrants from countries other than Morocco had generally been admitted to Spain so far because of the lack of a repatriation agreement, Morocco now stated with deportations of migrants towards its southern borders [read: into the desert]. Both, spanish and moroccan authorities use massive violence against immigrants in the process.

From the 28 September to 6 October 2005 at least 14 immigrants died during attempts to cross the border fences that separate the Spanish enclaves Ceuta and Melilla from Morocco. These are the consequence of the helpless repression of Moroccan and Spanish police and Military confronted with the determined attempts of large groups mainly sub saharan migrants to reach Europe in order to work in the informal sector often under extreme conditions.

It is almost cynical that most of the dead migrants have literally been shoot in the back by agents from what EU immigration doctrine defines as a 'safe third countries'. incidents of this character are not limited to Morocco. In a less publicised event in late September turkish coast guard had opened fire on a ship carrying migrants in the Aegean sea killing one syrian migrant. [see also meanwhile at the borders... for an overview]

Deported to die in the desert

Since last week the Moroccan authorities carry out deportations of immigrants to the Sahara Dessert close to the Moroccan-Algerian border. As there is no agreement with Algeria to take the deportees 'back' the migrants are often abandoned in desert conditions without access to food and water and far away from human settlements.

On 5 October 2005, the Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos de Andalucía and the Chabaka network of northern Morocco issued a call to condemn the serious violation of human rights that are being suffered by sub-Saharan migrants, most notably the deportation of hundreds of people to the Sahara desert which has resulted in between 12 and 16 deaths already.

The statement also describes the situation of migrants in northern Morocco who are hiding in the depths of woods and surrounded by the army as an emergency. The two organisations called on the UNHCR, the Red Cross and the European Parliament to intervene immediately, as well as criticising the fact that a repatriation agreement between Spain and Morocco dating back to 1992 for the return of non-nationals who have used Morocco as a transit country has been put into practice in these circumstances.

They also lament the fact that the €40m in funding that have been made available by the EU, will "certainly... not be used to relieve the humanitarian crisis that thousands of sub-Saharan Africans in Morocco are experiencing".

Violence against immigrants

On 30 September 2005, the international humanitarian doctors' organisation Medècins sans Frontières (MSF) published a report in which it highlights that a large proportion (2,193 out of 9,350) of the people it has treated sought medical help because they suffered the "after-effects of violence". In over half the cases, the migrants claimed that Moroccan (44%) and Spanish (18%) police forces had been responsible for their injuries, with organised gangs and people traffickers also figuring in the categories of groups which caused injuries in over 10% of cases. The incidents reported by MSF, which it claims reveal "systematic violence and degrading treatment", include deaths, gunshot wounds, beatings and attacks by dogs when fleeing Moroccan security forces.

Part 2 of the report focuses on the patterns of violence and human rights violations suffered by "illegal sub-Saharan immigrants". They include systematic raids in urban, peri-urban and rural areas which often involve the use of excessive violence, unjustified blocks and checks on means of transport, legal/administrative irregularities such as detention in prisons and abandonment on the Moroccan-Algerian border, which is referred to as a no man's land. The report highlights that extrajudicial expulsions are carried out by the Guardia Civil (Spain's paramilitary police force) through a door in the border fence, contravening legal procedure and human rights commitments in the field of human rights. Incidents in the Moroccan-Spanish border areas are listed, including "arrests, excessive use of force, degrading treatment and abuse, sexual violence, extrajudicial expulsions and expulsions of persons at risk". The reported incidents are documented in the report using witness statements.

MSF describes this report as an attempt to "raise awareness about the lack of protection and defence available to this human collective", "illustrate the violence used by Moroccan and Spanish security forces against illegal sub-Saharan immigrants" and to open a discussion on other forms of violence suffered by this collective, such as inter-group violence or that committed by human trafficking networks and common criminals. The report is a reminder of the human rights implications of the EU's efforts to export its immigration policies to neighbouring countries.

This article is based on the following sources: Statewatch News online: 1 and 2, 1 and 2 and Medècins sans Frontières