By Karima Rhanem Morocco TIMES 10/18/2005 | 10:05 am GMT
Thousands of African illegal migrants live in a shanty town overlooked by the Algerian security services near the city of Maghnia, west Algeria, where they illicitly prepare to cross the Morocco-Algerian borders, said on Sunday the French speaking magazine Jeune Afrique / L'intelligent.
The illegal migrants gather in the town before entering the Moroccan territory and attempting to set foot in Sebta and Melilla, the Spanish enclaves in north Morocco.
The Algerian authorities tolerate the migrants' gathering because they know that the Africans “have no intention to re-start their lives” in Algeria, noted the magazine.
“It goes without saying that the strained relations between the two neighbour countries do not encourage Algeria to overdo it,” it added.
The weekly said the would-be migrants return to Maghnia after three, five, or ten failing attempts to cross into Spain. They stay in the city to recuperate their strength and gather some money, before engaging into the same experience again.
To earn money and meet their own needs in the Algerian city, the migrants “work as daily workers in the region's farms and orchards, for 500 dinars (5 ¤) a day,” added Jeune Afrique / L'intelligent .
“Overwhelmed, sometimes caught by panic in front of the necessity to face desperate migrants, who don't hesitate to defend themselves with stones, knives, and even their teeth, Moroccan and Spanish security services” were obliged to react against the waves of illegal migrants, said the weekly.
“Today, Morocco is in an unbearable position. The European Union, which until now did not see the problem as a priority, barricades itself behind militarized frontiers.”
In 2002, Spain had started using “an integrated system of exterior vigilance made up of 25 detection stations, 12 mobile radars and a dozen patrols” to curb the continuous flow of the Saharans.
“But nothing, or very little, was done by the EU to help Morocco bring down the presence, on its soil, of tens of thousands of Sub-Saharan illegal migrants” aiming to transit in the direction of Spain, said the weekly.
A 40 million ¤ emergency aid has been blocked for six years in Brussels, the magazine noted, deploring Europe's tendency to “externalise” the crisis and throw too much responsibility on Morocco.
Six years ago, the EU announced that it would grant Morocco 40 million euros to help it fight illegal immigration; an amount that Morocco never received.
“Alone, Morocco, which already has its own troubles to tackle, can do nothing to face the phenomenon”, noted the magazine.
Morocco has called on both Europe and Algeria to assume their share of the responsibility to combat the problem of illegal migration.
The Moroccan Minister Delegate to Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Taib Fassi Fihri, has denounced the Polisario and Algeria's exploitation of the migration “human tragedy for propaganda ends.”
“The Polisario has just found itself a role as an actor in the control and the administration of migratory fluxes, while some credible international reports and different witnesses have confirmed that the Front has deployed all kinds of trafficking,” said Taib Fassi Fihri.
The Moroccan Minister denounced the use of the buffer zone for political ends and drew attention to the importance of constructing brotherly relations between Morocco and the African countries.
He told MAP news agency on Sunday that “once again, the opponents of our Kingdom's territorial integrity are attempting to exploit a human tragedy to serve their cause.”
“Algeria and the Polisario deliberately exploit the hell endured by those unfortunate migration candidates for propaganda ends,” indicated the Minister. He added that many migrants were detained to be presented to the media and thus support the thesis of the so called “liberated territories.”
“The kingdom of Morocco” he added “recalls that these so called territories are a buffer zone, which was willingly set up by Morocco, as part of the ceasefire operation initiated in Sept. 1991.”
“Morocco, which has always evoked the reason for the existence of this zone, firmly denounces today its propagandist exploitation, which wickedly takes advantage of the current illegal migration flux.”
The phenomenon, according to the Minister, has no relation with the regional conflict.
Nevertheless, Fassi Fihri said that Morocco takes the international community, particularly the UN, as a witness of this “unscrupulous manipulation of the unfortunate migrants' fate.”
“Morocco is the first victim of this migratory phenomenon. The country sees the flow of thousands of Africans, administered by mafia and criminal networks, leave their homeland and pursue the European dream,” he underlined.
The Minister also recalled Morocco's permanent appeals to Algeria, through regional organizations, the European Union and many member states, to adopt a less permissive policy concerning illegal migration and to control its borders.
“The Moroccan government” affirmed Fassi Fihri “underlines the importance of the relations between Morocco and African countries, in terms of culture, history and cooperation.”
He stressed that such cooperation is necessary for the development of the continent. “It is an objective to which Europe must contribute in its attempt to stop the causes of migration,” he said.
In turn, the Minister of Interior, Al Mustapha Sahel, declared that “this wave of propaganda directed by Algeria and Polisario attempts to ruin the image of Morocco.”
“The Polisario is a mafia group which takes advantage of illegal migration and exploits the issue to serve its wicked plans,” he emphasized.
The minister also declared that so far over 2,500 sub-Saharan migrants have been repatriated by plane, affirming that they were not subjected to any violence, either when they were assembled during the repatriation operation.
Fihri has denied accusations that Morocco has dumped sub-Saharan African migrants in the Sahara desert. The Polisario claimed earlier it had taken in more than 90 Africans wandering in the desert after Morocco expelled them. Fihri said the allegations were propaganda orchestrated by the Polisario Front and its ally, Algeria.
By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 3/9/2006 | 3:35 pm
Moroccan Premier Driss Jettou announced on Wednesday in Brussels that the Euro-African Conference on Immigration will be held on July 10-11 in Morocco. The conference, initiated by Morocco and Spain with the support of France, is organised in collaboration with the European Commission.
The Moroccan Premier told the press, during a meeting with president of the European Union, José Manuel Barroso, that the meeting will focus on cooperation between the European Union and African countries, MAP news agency reported.
Jettou recalled that Morocco is experienced in the field of cooperation, indicating that the Kingdom receives about 7,000 African students, who obtained scholarships to study in Moroccan universities and vocational training centers. He added that the Moroccan-African cooperation includes other different fields, mainly in agriculture, and micro credits.
“If we could have a trio partnership between Europe, Morocco and the African countries, we would do more in this regard, and that's what we are longing for during the conference,” said Jettou.
Evoking the partnership with the European Union regarding the readmission of non-documented people living in Europe, the Moroccan Premier expressed the determination of the two parties to sign an agreement to settle the issue.
“There is no problem concerning the readmission of the non-documented Moroccans living in Europe, nor that of the foreigners residing in Morocco,” said the Prime Minister, underling that the technical teams are negotiating and studying “Cotonou Accord”, which will allow the European Union a direct readmission towards African countries.
In turn, José Manuel Barroso underlined the importance of the management of immigration flow, a field to which the EU and the member states give a special attention.
Barroso also expressed the EU's will to finalize the agreement on immigration within a spirit of partnership with neighboring countries.
“We are aware that it is a difficult problem, because it doesn't affect only one country; there are migratory flows which come from other countries. This is complicated. I have asked the Moroccan Premier about his personal commitment, and his complete attention, because if we find a solution, this will help to boost our relations even further,” Barroso declared.
During his brief visit to Brussels, the Prime Minister, who was accompanied by the Moroccan Ambassador to the UE, Menouar Alem, also held meetings with the European Commissioner to Foreign Relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, and Elmar Brok, president the European Commission in charge of foreign relations with the parliament.
Before heading for Brussels, Moroccan Prime Minister Driss Jettou voiced satisfaction over the results of the meetings he had had with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, foreign and cooperation minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and development minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul.
In this respect, Jettou and Steinmeier agreed to organize a day of investment opportunities in Morocco in the second half of the year, and to promote exchanges between the two countries.
Jettou's meetings also touched on regional and international issues, notably the latest developments in the Middle East, kidnapping of Moroccan and German nationals in Iraq and immigration.
The Prime minister also started on Wednesday a visit to Portugal to attend on Thursday the investiture ceremony of President Anibal Cavaco Silva.
Moroccan Minister of Interior, Al Mustafa Sahel, said on Tuesday that Morocco has made great efforts to fight illegal immigration, using its own means without foreign assistance. He also urged Algeria to control its borders.
During a meeting with representatives of national and foreign media, Al Mustafa Sahel said that illegal migrants hailing from the eastern borders with Algeria are the main problem, not only for Morocco but also for Spain.
“The European Union is called upon to support Morocco's efforts in fighting illegal migration. It also needs to help the involved African countries fight this phenomenon,” said Sahel.
“It is unacceptable and irrational that pressure should be imposed on Morocco alone to fight this phenomenon, while none has been exerted on the neighbouring countries,” he added.
Sahel has urged Algeria to be responsible since it is the main gateway for illegal migration towards Morocco and then to the European Union.
Sahel presented the media with the government's comprehensive strategy to fight this phenomenon. This included strengthening laws against mafia of human beings trafficking and elaborating laws regulating the presence of foreigners in Morocco.
The Interior Minister underlined that the rate of illegal migrants arrested in 2004 dropped by 25%. However, in 2005, migration towards Andalusia province has increased by 40% and Canary Isles, 50%. Moroccan authorities have also dismantled 400 mafia networks of human beings trafficking.
By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 10/16/2005 | 4:29 pm
The Moroccan Government vigorously denounced the Polisario and Algeria's exploitation of the migration crisis in north Morocco for political and propaganda ends, said Morocco's Premier Driss Jettou in a statement on Sunday.
The Prime Minister, Driss Jettou, said that “at a time when Morocco fulfils its obligations and is stepping up efforts to address the massive inflow of clandestine migrants coming in their majority from the Algerian borders, the Government of HM the King deplores that Algeria doesn't shoulder her responsibilities concerning the transit through her territory."
He added that the neighbouring country is also "trying to manipulate this situation by gathering in the region of Tindouf candidates to illegal migration to use them as a propaganda tool in the Sahara conflict.”
Jettou went on: “Algeria's opportunistic attempts to exploit this humanitarian tragedy will not undermine Morocco's bilateral and multilateral efforts to curb this migratory influx.”
He insisted that it is “out of the question to let the enemies of Morocco's territorial integrity take advantage of the misery and the distress of these human beings in search of a better life in Europe; nor will Morocco allow this type of action to harm its lofty interests particularly those related to its territorial integrity."
Morocco has been facing, for years now, a growing pressure of the migratory influx bound for Europe and transiting mainly from Algeria. Morocco's efforts have made it possible to reach significant results recognized at the regional and international levels.
Following the regrettable incidents that occurred late September in the north of Morocco, and given the importance of the phenomenon that Morocco continues to face, repatriation operations by air have been organised in close cooperation with concerned brotherly countries.
Morocco flew on Sunday 144 Sub-Saharan illegal migrants from Mali (80), Gambia (60), and Senegal (4) to their countries of origin.
Moroccan authorities also flew other 435 illegal migrants home on Saturday, starting a second wave of mass deportations of sub-Saharan Africans who have tried to get to Europe, forcing their way into the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in northern Morocco.
MAP news agency has reported that the total number of the clandestine sub-Saharan migrants, deported back to their countries through Guelmim airport (about 500 miles south of Morocco's capital, Rabat) increased to 724, including 370 from Mali, 294 from Senegal and 60 from Gambia.
Nearly 1,600 migrants were sent home in the first wave, including many who tried to reach the Spanish enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta but were pushed back from barbed wire fences.
On Sept. 29, five migrants were shot dead while trying to get into Ceuta, and six more died in clashes with Moroccan security forces at the Melilla border.
Morocco has been criticised for its handling of the latest stampedes led by the would-be migrants on the country's northern coasts, as many international NGOs laid the blame for the deteriorating situation on the Moroccan authorities.
Answering the international community's increasing criticism, the Moroccan authorities rap some Spanish NGOs and political groups for “politicising the tragic events” taking place along the fences that cordon off the two enclaves from the rest of Morocco.
In the past, the Moroccan government was criticised for not taking enough measures to stem the flow of African migrants to Europe. But now the Kingdom is berated for sending troops to the borders and responding to the migrants' stampedes “violently". The government defended its use of force in restraining the huge numbers of migrants from crossing into Sebta and Melilla.
The government's spokesperson, Nabil Benabdellah, told the press last week “it is almost impossible to combat this phenomenon without causing humanitarian problems”. He added that the Moroccan authorities can't take up this responsibility on its own shoulders alone.
The Paris-based weekly 'Jeune Afrique/l'intelligent' reported on Sunday that Algerian security services tolerate the existence of thousands of sub-Saharan migrants, who stay in a village-shantytown close to the town of Maghnia, preparing to cross the borders to reach Europe.
Morocco accuses neighbouring Algeria of throwing the door wide open for sub-Saharan migrants, allowing them to cross into the Moroccan territory without any surveillance.
“Algeria is also responsible for this situation, and it does not want to assume its part of the responsibility,” said the governmen's spokesperson on Thursday.
The government also reiterated that European countries are under an obligation to exert more serious efforts if they are to reach a practical solution to curb the flow of African migration.
The EU Commissioner for Freedom, Security and Justice, Franco Frattini, stated on Wednesday that "intelligence sources say that 20,000 illegal migrants are in Algiers, waiting to start their trek towards Morocco and the two Spanish enclaves. Another 10,000 are already waiting in Morocco."
"There is a mounting migration pressure on Morocco and Europe (and) there is no indication that the present high migratory pressure ... will decrease in the short term," he underlined.
After a visit to Ceuta and Melilla, the EU technical commission highlighted the need to “react as soon as possible” to help Spain and mainly Morocco to fight a “severe migratory pressure.”
Among these measures, the EU will help Morocco and Spain form joint “border-guards and exchange the best measures to fight smuggling in human beings."