Tangiers: Migrant house attacked and looted

A migrant house in the area of Houmat Chouk, a poor neighbourhood in the south-east of Tangier, was violently attacked last night, Tuesday 12th November. Two Senegalese men were hurt in the confrontations, during which local Moroccans swarmed and entered the house threatening with knives and other weapons.

The landlord of the house, which has housed the current mainly Senegalese residents for 1 year and 4 months, turned up unannounced at around 9pm with his wife. They began arguing with people inside about rent and said they planned to take valuables to settle debts.

Tenants tried to move valuables out of the house. The landlord then blocked the exit and began attacking the men, threatening with pieces of wood and at one point brandishing a gas canister, before shouting outside for help.

At least 40 local Moroccans then swarmed the house inside and outside. Many were carrying knives, and many were teenage boys. The mob looted the house, taking personal belongings, clothes, cooking equipment and gas canisters.

Rooms were ransacked, doors smashed off their hinges, makeshift walls destroyed and mattresses overturned. Rocks were thrown through the first floor window. The men made a bonfire outside of clothes and other personal belongings. The atmosphere was riotous and threatening.

Four plain-clothed police officers, in a van, arrived half an hour after being called by a tenant when the situation had escalated. The landlord claimed there were illegal materials in the house, a boat and life-jackets, and he had burned them. These items are considered illegal for migrants to own but not for Moroccans. He was told to make a statement at the police station.

At the house, police tried to detain people on the grounds of expired visas. They only stopped when a Senegalese resident called the Embassy. An official spoke to the police, arguing that they were there to deal with the events of the night and not immigration issues.

Police took two Senegalese people to hospital who had sustained foot and head injuries during the chaos. They were not treated, but told to come back the next day for a medical certificate which they would have to pay for.

Three migrant men were taken to the police station to give statements. One had a residence permit, the other two had expired visas. Statements were taken only from the two without valid visas – those that hold less weight for the authorities and are easier to ignore.

Two hours after the house was first attacked, the locals had begun to disperse and the police had left. Residents of the house were left to survey the damage, sort their ransacked rooms and wonder what will happen next.

In a country where even the most basic rights of sub-Saharan migrants are not respected, no-one has any illusions that the authorities will help them.

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