Migrants returned to Morocco then 'dumped in desert'

6th October 2005, Comments 0 comments

7 October 2005, RABAT — Five hundred would-be migrants expelled from Spain's North African enclave of Melilla have been dumped in the desert by Moroccan authorities, it is claimed.

7 October 2005

RABAT — Five hundred would-be migrants expelled from Spain's North African enclave of Melilla have been dumped in the desert by Moroccan authorities, it is claimed.

The non-governmental organisation Doctors Without Frontiers claimed Morocco was dumping the refugees in the desert near the Algerian border without provisions.

Morocco's interior ministry has not commented on the allegations, but earlier it had said it had taken custody from Spanish authorities of 73 sub-Saharan African migrants who had managed to enter Melilla.

Citing a source in the ministry, the official news agency MAP reported that "in the context of cooperation between Morocco and Spain within the ambit of the struggle against clandestine immigration, Moroccan authorities accepted the repatriation from Spain of 73 sub-Saharan citizens."

MAP said the migrants were to be provided with food, lodging and medical care, "respecting their dignity".

The Moroccan interior ministry source told MAP that Rabat accepted the migrants to demonstrate its commitment to working with Spain and as a way of giving "concrete sense to the notion of shared responsibility for the management of this problem".

The 73 Africans, most of them citizens of Mali, were first flown from Melilla to mainland Spain and then taken by boat to Tangier, Spanish police said.

Plans to repatriate the migrants were announced by Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega during a visit earlier this week to Melilla and Spain's other North African enclave, Ceuta.

Six sub-Saharan migrants were shot dead on Thursday when as many as 400 of them tried to rush the fence separating Morocco from Melilla, Moroccan officials said, bringing to 14 the number of migrants who have died since 28 September in massive stormings of the barriers around the two Spanish cities.

Some of the deaths were due to gunfire from guards on either side of the borders, while other victims were trampled to death or succumbed to injuries sustained as they scaled the fences, which are topped with concertina wire.

Africans are trying to use the Spanish enclaves as a bridge into the European Union. Once in Spain, they can move freely to other countries in the European Union.

To avoid being sent back to their countries of origin, the illegal immigrants enter Ceuta and Melilla without documentation, often forcing Spanish authorities to send them to the mainland for processing.

Meanwhile, in Geneva, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees said on Friday that his office is in close touch with both Spanish and Moroccan authorities about the situation in Ceuta and Melilla.

Antonio Guterres told reporters he wants personnel from his organization to have "physical access to asylum proceedings and (to see) that refugee status is granted to those who have a right to it," while acknowledging that most of the Africans trying to enter the Spanish cities are economic migrants.

"What we have done until now is work with the Spanish authorities to make that possible and I have confidence things will be handled in that way," the former Portuguese prime minister said.

Guterres said he planned to dispatch a delegation to Morocco "very soon" to evaluate the situation.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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