Moroccan police accused of torching migrant shelters

Moroccan police accused of torching migrant shelters
2 min read
13 March, 2021
Migrants in the Spanish enclave Melilla say police forces raided their camp for several consecutive nights this week.
Migrants have tried to reach Europe via the Spanish enclave of Melilla [Getty]
Moroccan police have burnt down migrant tents in a series of raids on a camp near the Spanish-administered enclave of Melilla, forcing asylum seekers to sleep without shelter, according to the migrant support group Alarm Phone.

Moroccan police forces returned to the camp for the fourth consecutive day on Friday, despite alreacy having torched most of the tents. This came after more than 150 migrants attempted to scale the fence between Morocco and the Spanish enclave last Monday.

Melilla is a Spanish-controlled city which borders northern Morocco. Morocco claims the city and does not recognise Spanish sovereignty over it.  Migrants have tried to enter the heavily fortified city by climbing fences, hiding under vehicles or within cargo, hoping to eventually reach mainland Spain.

A video sent to Alarm Phone, which helps traumatized migrants trying to cross into European countries, revealed the burnt remains of migrants’ tents and scattered belongings.

“They were burning and destroying people’s belongings, both the tent-like structures they construct but also their personal belongings. People were really cold and distressed and slept rough because they didn’t have anything else to construct with,” an Alarm Phone researcher told The Guardian.

The researcher added that the early morning raids left migrants afraid that they will be detained while asleep.

Dozens of migrant women and children have been forcibly moved by Moroccan authorities to the south of the country to keep them away from the border with Melila, while over 100 men have been detained, Alarm Phone said.

Read more: Cashing in on misery - Despite Covid-19, North Africa's human traffickers are thriving

The Moroccan Association of Human Rights has often
criticised police for detaining migrants from African countries south of the Sahara and moving them to Morocco's southern borders, where they are either kept in detention or deported.

Last week’s attempted migrant crossing into Melilla was one of several attempts this year. In late February, Spanish police discovered migrants in Melilla hiding in waste containers while attempting to reach mainland Spain. One man was found almost dead inside a plastic bag full of toxic ash.  

Earlier in March, four people died within 30 hours attempting to swim to Melilla from a nearby Moroccan port, the Spanish newspaper Okdiario reported.

Coronavirus restrictions have made it harder for migrants to cross into the fortified territory. According to Spain's Interior Ministry, nearly 1,500 crossed into Melilla irregularly in 2020, down from more than 5,800 in 2019.

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