One of the big news items this past week that not many may have noticed is the report of about Morocco dumping African illegal migrants out in the desert by the border between Morocco and Algeria to fend for themselves. These migrants were left there without any food or water, and some may have needed some medical attention.
Before I continue, I must give you a little background. A lot of the would be migrants, who are mainly of West African origin head north seeking some semblance of a better life in Europe. Their journey most likely will take them through the Sahara to Morocco where they would then wait for the opportunity to board a boat and sail across the Mediterranean Sea. If you have been keeping up with the news, you know there has been an increase in the number of migrants drowning in these waters. This is compounded by the fact that many of these boats are barely seaworthy and overloaded. At the same time there has been an increase in the number of coastal patrols by the Spanish authorities so more and more of these migrants are caught even before they make it ashore.
There is also the political dimension to this story. As the Spanish see that their country is being “invaded” by the migrants, there arises various sorts of tensions and invariantly immigration then becomes an issue that the various political parties and governments must address. Migrants also tend to provide convenient scapegoats to blame for increase in crime and other societal ills. There is a whole lot to add, but I think this will give you the gist of some of the issues that migration raises.
Now, on the African side of the Mediterranean, there are the two Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla that are simply separated by a “fence” from Morocco. This year to date, over 12,000 have attempted to climb over the fence into Melilla seeking to touch Spanish soil.
Two weeks ago, everything came to a head when about 1000 migrants tried to storm the fence one night. Although the border police were able to repel most, about 300 made it over the fence and a few died. Some would be processed and taken to the Spanish mainland (and may be handed papers), some will be interned awaiting expulsion/repatriation. Now the tricky thing is that Spain does not really have repatriation agreements with most of these West African countries, however it does have an agreement with Morocco, a 1992 accord that allows Spain to repatriate any illegal African national to Morocco and let the Moroccans take it from there.
So this is basically what happened. These migrants who were not able to make it to the Spanish enclaves were arrested then taken and abandoned, by the Moroccan authorities, in the desert 18 miles from the Moroccan desert village of El Aouina-Souatar. They were “found” about a week later by the no profit humanitarian/medical relief group Medecins sans Frontieres (or Doctors without Borders). The huge international outcry eventually shamed Morocco into doing the right thing by flying these folks back to their home countries, in this case, Senegal and Mali with which the country has repatriation agreements.
So Morocco is baring the brunt of Spain’s popularity (or draw) for migrants seeking entry into Europe, and therefore has had to deal with arresting, detaining and repatriating thousands of failed migrant attempts. I cannot imagine how the locals feel about this issue, but there are real costs, financial, economic, social, cultural etc that Morocco has to bare. One thing for sure is that Morocco will have to address is the issue of its own porous borders, while at the same time Spain will also have to address their deportation policies in line with international interests in this issue. And this is not just a problem for Spain, but also a problem for the EU in general. So expect to see more immigration policies coming out of the EU that will make it tougher for such migrants to gain entry into the EU territory.
All this raises a much bigger issue that is simply not going to go away. This is the issue of economic migration across borders from the relatively impoverished areas into the wealthier regions. This is an issue I will expound upon in a separate posting.