Hundreds of Migrants Stranded as Government Raids Continue
30 September 2010
Morocco - Following the intensification of raids and mass expulsions carried out recently by Moroccan police forces, hundreds of migrants, including pregnant women and children, were deported to no-man’s-land on the border of Morocco and Algeria and abandoned there during the night without food and water. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) calls on the Moroccan authorities to adhere to their obligations under national and international law when implementing measures to control migration. The authorities must respect the dignity and integrity of migrants and avoid exposing them to a situation of greater vulnerability and insecurity.
As stipulated in Moroccan law, pregnant women, children and other vulnerable groups of migrants must not be expelled to the border and MSF is deeply concerned about this deterioration in the medical and humanitarian situation for sub-Saharan migrants in Morocco.
“This intensification of restrictive measures to control migration in Morocco has a direct impact on the health and the dignity of migrants and refugees,” says Jorge Martin, MSF’s head of mission in Morocco.
Police operations took place between 19th August and 10th September in cities throughout Morocco including Oujda, Al-Hoceima, Nador, Tangiers, Rabat, Casablanca and Fez. In many of the raids, police forces used bulldozers, and in Nador, helicopters, to destroy migrants’ tents and houses.
An estimated 600 to 700 migrants were arrested during the raids and taken to the border between Morocco and Algeria. There, migrants were left to fend for themselves, without food or water. Among them were pregnant women, women with children and people with medical problems or injuries directly or indirectly related to the police raids. They faced the choice of returning to Oujda on foot or trying to cross to the Algerian side of the border. Abandoned there in the middle of the night, they were also at risk of being attacked and robbed by bandits and smugglers who operate in the area. Those who managed to reach the city of Oujda are completely destitute, without money, shelter or personal belongings.
“Our team has witnessed the direct impact of these mass raids and expulsions on the medical condition and mental health of the migrants,” says Jorge Martin. “We provided medical support to a woman who had given birth to her child just six days before. She was arrested by the police forces and spent five days in a police cell with her newborn child. Then she was taken back to the border. She has managed to come back to Oujda, but is now suffering from acute gastrointestinal syndrome. ”
During the past few weeks, MSF teams have seen an alarming increase in patients with medical problems related to incidents of violence. Of the 186 patients who have received medical care from MSF, 103 had lesions and injuries directly or indirectly linked to the violence during the arrests. The harsh living conditions and the lack of proper shelter have also contributed to the increase in medical problems. Almost half of the migrants who sought medical care from MSF teams had medical symptoms linked to the difficult and insanitary conditions in which they are living. Eighteen percent had skin infections, ten percent had respiratory infections and 11 percent had digestive problems.
MSF has been working in Morocco since 2000, carrying out healthcare projects in Tangiers, Casablanca, Rabat and Oujda, providing sub-Saharan migrants with medical and humanitarian assistance and advocating for better access to healthcare and respect for migrants’ human dignity. Currently, MSF is running a project in Oujda providing medical and psychological care to migrants and refugees.