Monday, January 20, 2014

Morocco trials a ‘radically new’ politics of migration for sub-Saharan Africans

2014 could be the year that significant advancements are made in the way that Morocco treats ‘irregular migrants’ within its borders. After last year’s events, which saw Morocco come under pressure for taking steps to address human rights’ abuses, on 1st January, offices for the regularisation of migrants finally opened; however, migrants and NGOs remain cautious.

According to controversial estimates by the Moroccan Home Office, Sub-Saharan Africans are the most numerous amongst the 25 to 45 thousand irregular migrants present in the country. Heralding from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds in western and central Africa, migrants have already undertaken a perilous journey, but the last leg of the journey to ‘Fortress Europe’ can prove even more hazardous.

To better some light on recent major changes concerning migration in Morocco you need to go back to March 2013, and the death of a Cameroonian migrant we shall refer to as ‘Clément’. On 11th March, along with another approximately 150 sub-Saharan migrants, Clément attempted to cross the border between the Moroccan city Nador and the Spanish enclave Melilla. Waiting for the prayer call at 4.30am, migrants prepared for what they call the ‘shock’ (le choc), or ‘hitting the border’ (frapper). This is no euphemism as they climb on makeshift ladders over the razor-topped fences. This was the start of the ‘apocalypse’ routinely described by migrants as they were subjected to the violence of both Spanish and Moroccan forces. The harrowing accounts of how events unfolded have been collected in a report by the Moroccan migrants’ rights association GADEM.

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