Some of the migrants have been living in Morocco for years. They wonder if they will live to see Europe, or if they will die trying.
Many have already been illegally pushed back, as well as being shot at, by Guardia Civil, Spanish police, after arriving within colonial Spanish territory on the African continent: Ceuta and Melilla. There is daily anguish at how hard life can be in Morocco, as the desperate and now cold conditions in forest camps isolate them from Moroccan communities around the Spanish cities. Others live in squats, rented apartments or small camps, in or next to an area, half-built, on the edge of Tanger.
2014 has been an unprecedented year for migration in Morocco. The 2013 migration reforms were said by many to be a sign of Morocco slowly coming to terms with migration changes. Its allying with the EU to increase the hardship of the border regime, now also increasing the numbers of Sub-Saharan migrants stuck in the country. Many migrants, though, have been sceptical, and seen the séjour citizenship as a dangerous option, that not only has a strong suggestion of empty promises, but also the risks of heavy sentences in Moroccan prisons, for either trying again to reach Europe, or for speaking out about cruelty received from agents of the Moroccan state. It is often perceived as an instrument of control, instead of one of support.
Along with those who are not interested, Morocco’s newest citizens receive almost daily discrimination, and next-to-no work is available, with those that find it being repeatedly exploited and under-paid. Many more are struggling to even get the ‘carte de séjour’, as many police stations have not wanted to know, and turned people away repeatedly. These are, after all, the same police that have beaten and stolen from migrants when they have arrested them. Medical care in Morocco is not free, even in emergencies, and people have had to beg for money and food from passing Moroccan drivers. There are high levels of racism and mistrust, and newspaper headlines such as ‘The Black Danger’ fueling tension. Some though, see the situation slowly changing, and have walked places with less trouble than before. Illegal deportations to the Algerian border have also stopped, although there are deportation agreements with other West African states.
For those still waiting for their chance to cross to Europe, 2014 has also been a year of note, with record success at getting into Melilla – about 5,000 migrants this year arriving there – over 2000 overcoming the dangerously high and barbed fences of this European colony enclave, and the rest by boat or swimming, around the long-stretching Mediterranean fences. In Ceuta, after several jumps earlier that year and extreme violence by the Guardia Civil, the number of people arriving at the CETI is somewhat smaller.
But the other side of this reality is that 2014 has also been the record year for deaths in the Mediterranean, with organisations on the ground showing that almost exactly 3500 people have lost their lives attempting to make the crossing. And as humanity is substituted, lives are lost at the hands of corrupted state agents turning a blind eye, or using massively disproportional and ultimately unnecessary force to divert or destroy the direction that people, now so close, can only aim for. Police have shot and thrown what seemed to have been rocks at people they surrounded in the water.
As 2014 comes to end, recent days have seen new hope for many, with many surviving the journey, and contacting those still in the forest camps, from Spain.
In the last few weeks, as the world looked towards New Year celebrations, stories of continued struggle and determination, as well as heartbreak, came from the waters and inhuman border fences of Morocco:
6th December –
Tragedy of Nador: out of 57 boatpeople, only half were rescued near the Spanish coast, the others went missing/died in the Mediterranean after having spent nearly 2 days on the water.
15th/16th December –
Around 1200 individual attempts are made to jump the fences into Melilla. There are no reported successes.
19th December –
12 young men of Algerian origin, one with symptoms of hypothermia, arrive at 3am in the port of Almeria.
200 migrants again attempt the crossing of fences around Melilla, with one suffering an injury, and a report of an injured policeman sent to protect the border.
20th December –
28 men sailed from Morocco and were intercepted seven miles south of La Rabita, then taken to the port of Motril (Granada)
20 people sail from Algeria and arrive in Murcia as 9 become clandestine, avoiding the Guardia Civil there.
9 people cross in an inflatable boat and arrive at Orihuela
25th December –
250 from the Cassiago forests try to enter Ceuta through the border fence. Some are injured and need urgent medical care.
26th December –
45 people – 33 men, 8 woman and 4 children – are rescued from a ‘makeshift’ boat off the coast of Spain.
Two boats with 13 people in them, including 11 sub-Saharans, were stopped by Royal Moroccan Navy ships from entering Ceuta, close to Benzu.
27th December –
Between 19 and 30 people cross in a convoy from Morocco to Spain, with one boat rescued near Malaga. News reports varied, but thankfully no-one was suspected to have died this time.
30th December –
120 people arrive in Melilla over the fences. As police arrived, 40 were on the fence, 37 were found injured, 12 of them seriously.
31st December –
Another 50 people defeat the borders to arrive in Melilla.
We wish to see an easier life during 2015 for those facing the struggles that being in desperate situations brings. But with more people being likely to be forced from their homes to make the dangerous journey – across the Sahara desert – in seek of refuge, and now the end of the Mare Nostrum rescue mission (saving 150,000 people in the last year who were fleeing from poverty and war zones on the African continent) we’re not sure how likely this is.
We can know, though, that when networks of solidarity are built, and people empower themselves to overcome forces that stand in the way, anything can be possible.
Thank you for all the building of support for No Borders Morocco and related projects, and thank you for any support and solidarity that you give in the future.
Bonne Fête du Maroc.