The militarisation of the European borders: the daily terror in Morocco

In this period, where thousands of people cross the Mediterranean Sea, the European Union and its member states continue to spend millions of euros to “secure” the borders and to prevent so-called “rogue migrants” from accessing the continent. As recent reports have revealed, the EU ministries and heads of state are planning a military intervention in the Mediterranean in order to destroy the boats of alleged “smugglers” with the help of the dynamic FRONTEX agency.

This war against migrants and lately the war against smugglers, who the EU points to as “responsible” for these tragedies, are part of the agenda of the European Union. The European Commission provides programmes for regional development and protection aimed at North Africa, West Africa and the Horn of Africa. (For a good overview of the EU border regime in Africa, see El Diario Desalambre). Regarding Morocco, the EU has already approved a budget of more than 150 millions euros in the framework of the new EU-Morocco Action Plan. The ensuing regularisation process, which was put forward by the Moroccan government and concerns around 17000 migrants and non-citizens, was accompanied by a massive police presence around the borders of Ceuta and Melilla and by continuous raids in the camps.

The Moroccan authorities have adopted a policy of systematic militarised aggression.

Since February 2015, they have launched a campaign to assault migrants at the Northern border of Morocco in order to make their lives unbearable (see also the reports of Moroccan human righs organisations: AMDH 17/2/15, GADEM 12/2/15, GADEM 19/2/2015). As a spokesperson of the Nador police authorities stated to the AMDH (Moroccan Association of Human Rights) in Nador, the authorities won’t accept the camps in the forests close to the Melilla border any longer. Concretetly, during the massive raid in February where around 1200 migrants were arrested and deported to improvised camps in the south of Morocco (see the map by GADEM with all the places of detetion), the Moroccan authorities were ignoring human rights: they arrested minors along with people with papers, they locked up hundreds of people for weeks without any reason and justification, and without legal scrutiny – despite the right to freedom of movement within the borders of each state (Art. 13 UDHR), and the right of protection against arbitrary detention (Art. 9 UDHR), amongst others. The camps in Gourougou, where the migrants took shelter in order to organise their attempts to cross the fences to Melilla, have been completely destroyed. Currently, there is almost no-one living there anymore, as the majority has moved to forests farther away around Nador, Tetouan, Fes and Ceuta.

Video of the raid in Bolingo, 25th of February

Corresponding to the same logic as the war on migrants waged by the European Union, the Moroccan police and their Forces Auxiliaires continue to come to those different camps in order to control, make arrests, and burn the migrants’ belongings.

13th of March 2015: the authorities conducted raids in the camps Bolingo, Baquoya and Afrah, they destroyed the camps, and again arrested many people – mainly women and children. The police don’t hesitate to confirm that these operations are payed for by the EU. The same attacks repeated themselves one month later:

14th, 22nd-24th and 28th of April 2015: the police again conducted raids in the forest of Selouane, Zoutya and Lakhmis Akdim where the former people from Gourougou now live. The police physically attacked the migrants and left many people injured. They burned personal belongings (shelters, clothes and food) and equipment needed for the boat journey.

29th of April: the police completely destroyed the camp of Bolingo and again arrested many people, including women.

During the three first weeks of May: more raids, and the police arrested people at the markets who ask for food or money, regardless of whether they hold the residence permit or not.

The week following the 10th of May: the police made random controls of Sub-Saharan migrants in the city of Tangier. Many were caught and deported to different places in the country (such as Casablanca, Rabat, Meknez and Asilah).

5th of June: The Moroccan authorities conducted another raid in part of the Cassiago camp (outside Ceuta), namely the Small Forest.

As a consequence of these months of physical aggressions and psychological terror the migrants in the forests live in constant anxiety, helicopters are continuously inspecting the camps from above. They don’t know what will happen the day after, where they will sleep the following night or what they will eat. The small material contributions don’t arrive (the church is hardly active) or they are burned the following day by the police raiding the camps, as it occurred on May 12th in Bolingo.

The daily terror that migrants experience in Morocco happens in the name of the European Union and as a result of its militarized approach. We witness a veritable war against migrants – hidden behind a hypocritical discourse about a war against “smugglers” and “mafia”.

But who are the smugglers?

According to the additionnal protocol to the UN convention against transnational organized crimes which aims at preventing, suppressing and punishing the trafficking of human beings, particularly women and children, the expression “human trafficking” refers to the “recruitment, transport, transfer, lodging or admission of people, by means of threat of force or by using force or by any other form of coercion, by kidnapping, fraud, cheating, abuse of authority or of a situation of vulnerability, or by offering or accepting payments or benefits in order to obtain the agreement by a person, who has authority over another person, for the purpose of exploitation” (Art. 3).

But it will never be called “trafficking of human beings” when the (Moroccan and Spanish) state agents accept bribes to let boats leave or to let people enter the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.

It will never be called “trafficking“ when Morocco uses the “reservoir” of migrants stuck in the towns or camps as a means of blackmail in order to receive new funds from Europe.

It will never be called “trafficking” when the European and Spanish authorities pay millions to other states so that they will prevent the movement of thousands of people, for example by financing Morocco to (violently) push migrants far away from the borders, or even to kill migrants who try to cross (as seen on the 6th of February 2014 in Ceuta), when the EU and Spain externalise their borders in order to prevent migration from Sub Saharan countries or when they make financial and military means available to deport people.

These actions are not defined as trafficking of human beings as it is about “the security of Europe”, “ending smuggling” and not “encouraging illegal migration”. But still: the migrants themselves, they just travel, however, those in power manipulate people completely, they prevent them from entering, from leaving, from moving freely. They park them in camps and when it arranges them well, they let them wander around according to the deals they’ve made, and they abuse them in order to receive the money. Human beings become a leverage and an exchange currency between capitalist networks and between states.

The mafia? It’s the state!

While the Moroccan head of government Benkirane “refuses to play the role of watch dog for Europe, but supports the measures taken against illegal migration“, the financing by the European Commission and its contribution to the repression in Morocco remain obscure. The collaboration includes money being put into bank accounts, it extends from treaties with Europe and more precisely in the case of Spain, the promise of help and cooperation, to the assurance of an easier visa procedure for Moroccan citizens, as an exchange currency. The role of Frontex at the Moroccan / Spanish border remains very vague though we have learned that the FRONTEX “leaders” visit Ceuta and Melilla on a regular basis. To reinforce their “control at the borders”, the European Union goes all the way to propose creating a drone airbase in Morocco and Algeria.

Thousands of migrants are stuck at the gates of Europe, imprisoned by this European state mafia. Some of them are in the forests of Morocco for months and even years.

We hear a lot about a corrupt police which is directly involved in trafficking drugs and in smuggling at the borders: According to the statements collected from the forests close to Nador, where the migrants try to cross the Mediterranean by zodiac, the Moroccan police take part in the business of the shipping: the zodiac, their motors and the equipment are often confiscated by the military and police who patrol the borders, and then re-sold to the migrants in the forests. The authorities encourage them to try to cross again and some members of this military mafia even propose to supervise the boats in return for a considerable payment.

Whereas the camps in the forest of Gourougou and the assaults on the fence (called “attacks” by migrants) were self-organised and thus without economical value to the state mafia (the Spanish Civil Guard and the Moroccan police), the attempts at boat journey usually benefit this mafia. This is why before, the police had spared these other forests around Nador where people prepare their boat journey. Since Gourougou was destroyed, this has changed: from now onwards, all migrants in Northern Morocco are the target of this war against migrants.

SOLIDARITY!

STOP THE WAR AGAINST MIGRANTS!

FOR FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT!

NO BORDERS!

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