This is a report by a UK No Borders Activist currently in Tangiers on his experience of being at a Sub-saharan African migrants’ house in Tangiers while it was being raided by Moroccan Police, who are funded by the EU.
Having your door kicked open and police officers come storming into your home early in the morning is not an uncommon thing for a migrant household in Tangier. In fact this can happen at least once every week, so much so that the residents of the house will just leave the doors open most often just so they dont have to keep repairing them. The reason for this is to catch out any migrant that may be in Morocco without papers. If such person were to be found then they would be detained for up to 2 days before being taken to the nearest border, which for Tangier is Oujda, the border town close to Algeria.
Ive been staying in a migrant household on the edge of Tangier. I was mainly there to visit friends that i had made from the previous time that i was in Morocco, but this time i was also here to talk with people about their living conditions, work availability, child care and schooling, but most of all, the abuse and lack of help that they get from locals and especially from local police and other officials. When one early morning i got a little insight into how they are treated.
I was abruptly woken up by a large crashing sound and opened my eyes to find a police officer stood over me staring in bewilderment. He signalled for me to get up and to step outside. As i started to, a couple of the guys that are living there said to me that i can just stay here because “they have no problem with white man“, i said that i wanted to go through with the process to find out how it worked, but only as long as it would not cause any further problems. So i walked out of the front door and was greeted with several officers surrounding the doorway “passport“ or “papiers“ they were shouting to each individual that was stepping out. I handed my passport and kept a close eye on it. An officer caught my attention by asking “why are you here ? why are you with these blacks?“, “these blacks“ i started “are people like you and me and they are my friends, mon amis“. Swiftly i was grabbed by my shoulder by one of the Senegalese guys that mimed to me that it was ok , indicating that i should probably talk to the police as little as possible. I walked over to the three officers that were checking each passport, where i noticed the amount of police that were around. There were several police vehicles parked around, a long row of police stood in an alleyway looking ominously like a firing squad and many other officials wandering around, some not even in any uniform. in turn, every resident were being checked and asked a series of basic questions as to their intent and purpose. They went through my passport with clearly, very little concern as to my legalities. As i was being handed my passport back, one of them asked in French “you are English ?“ yes“ i replied“ thinking about the fact that they had just been looking at my passport. “you are here on holiday ?“ ,“yes, something like that“. He continued in English now “you like it here in Morocco“, i wasnt quite sure if he was joking or not, seen as he knew I had just witnessed the raiding of the housei was staying in “yeah sure“ i said hesitantly “you are very welcome“ he finished with a broad smile. I just dont understand their mentality towards the situation sometimes !
Speaking to some of the residents after the police had left, I was shocked to find out how often this happens and what usually happened. Fortunately, this time no one was taken away, but everyone had their own stories of past incidents where they had either been taken away even though they had papers to prove their legality and detained for several hours without being questioned, fed or given water, before being released again. Or other instances where people would be taken away to be deported to the border close to Oujda, usually dropped off in the middle of nowhere, perhaps 15 to 20km from the nearest place without any water. 20 to 30 migrants would then have to walk back and smuggle themselves back over the border, usually by walking around border control, before being able to get back to Tangier. This is massively understated compared to the actual realities here in.
The migrants also told me that this time, the raid had been very calm, the police were a lot more controlled than in previous times, whether this is because of my presence, I’m not sure, but I would guess so. Apparently in the past, people have been physically abused while being taken out of the house, beaten and thrown to the ground. Possessions have gone missing on a regular basis, such as mobile phones, laptops and other electrical devices. On one occasion I was told that an officer had been spotted taking a phone and upon being questioned about it, was just threatened then dismissed.
While all this goes on, the local Moroccan community are mostly in support of the police and can be heard giving comments of racial abuse, or just simply nodding and smiling in agreement of what they are seeing. Which frankly, I find sickening. Not only do the Senegalese and Gambian collective here have to avoid police discrimination on a daily basis but also avoid the local Arabic community too.