Refuge Network International, a humanitarian NGO working with refugees in Africa, recently paid a visit to two African migrant camps in Morocco. The RNT team visited refugees in the border town of Oujda and another large camp in the ancient Moroccan town of Fes where we encountered hundreds of disillusioned suffering Sub-Saharan African migrants stranded in Morocco on their way to Europe. The camps where they call home are segmented into small groups of ram shackled tents, composed of the main nationalities represented within the community. Cameroonians constitute the largest groups in both camps. Yaya, leader of the Oujda Cameroon camp group, informed us that there are over 200 Cameroonian refugees living there. We also found large numbers of Nigerians, Ghanaians, Gambians, Malians, Guineans and other French speaking Africans in the two locations. Conditions in these camps are so bad that even animals might find it challenging surviving there. All that separates the inhabitants from the harsh unforgiving North African weather are small improvised huts made up of a combination of polyethylene material, cardboard paper, pieces of stones, sticks and damaged car tyres. There are no toilets, no clearly defined cooking areas, no medical facilities, no electricity supply, no pipe borne water, and absolutely no proper infrastructure whatsoever. When they need to answer the call of nature, they simply do it out in the open field right next to where they sleep, shielded only by tall grasses and a few trees. Cooking is also done in the open with dry wood collected from the area.
It is difficult to comprehend how these people survive from day to day. There are men, women, and children eating, sleeping and somehow carving out an existence there. Without proper documentation and without jobs, their options are pretty limited. The majority spend the day begging for money from passing cars in town. Time is also spent scavenging for food at the Medina. The situation is so depressing that it has left some mentally deranged. Though Moroccan society as well as the authorities is generally tolerant in their attitudes towards migrants, some undocumented Africans interviewed, complained of persecution and victimization by certain elements of the Moroccan police. A number of them had terrible physical scars sustained from brutal beatings. There were also allegations of unlawful confiscation and theft of their phones and money by law enforcement agents. Minor instances of racial discrimination were also reported.
With a view to addressing the huge refugee crisis in the country, the Moroccan government recently initiated a migrant integration programme aimed at regularizing the status of thousands of illegal immigrants in Morocco. Based on meeting certain stipulated pre-requisites, about 18 thousand undocumented persons were granted the right to legal residency. However, this liberal gesture has sadly not changed the many thousands who were not affected by the documentation exercise. Many are still living like animals on the fringes of the Moroccan society with no hope of going forward towards Europe, no funds to go back to their own countries, and no prospect of settling down permanently in Morocco.
Refuge Network International