News from the debt crisis in Spain and the rise of a global response
Escalating violence along the Spanish-Moroccan border
Por DIAGONAL English

By Patricia Manrique / Translated by Juan Martín Rodríguez

The institutional violence and the tension being created the security forces of Spain and Morocco in their border region has is on the increase again. Similarly to the sad events of 2005, civil organisations are reporting an escalation in the situation in terms of massive expulsions, an unknown number of injured and two casualties already (a migrant in December of 2011 and a Moroccan soldier in July of 2012). According to Prodein, a non-governmental organization (NGO) from Melilla (Spain), the alarming similarity between these events and those that occurred in 2005 is all too obvious.

“There are daily raids between the Moroccan cities of Nador and Oujda since December of 2011. This suggests large scale expulsions from the Algerian border region”, says David Cantero, the General Coordinator in Morocco of the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). This NGO, located in both Nador and Oujda, condemns the fact that violent attacks on Sub-Saharan migrants has more than doubled from 15% in April of 2012 to 34% in July of 2012. “The patients say that their injuries have been caused by the Moroccan security forces”.

Furthermore, the Association Marocaine des Droits de l’Homme (AMDH) condemns the plight of the migrants in their last report. According to the report, “during 2011, the Moroccan police deported Sub-Saharan migrants to the Moroccan-Algerian border in inhumane conditions, ignoring the administrative and judicial requirements”. The AMDH says the situation bears the ominous hallmarks of the “bloody events that occurred in the Ceuta and Melilla areas in august of 2005”.

Unfortunately, the raids and brutality remain key tactics, ensuring the migrants remain defenceless and desperate. Experience indicates that this results in the migrants becoming more reckless and impetuous, causing incidents such as the mass jump of the fence and the ’occupation’ of Tierra island. “Events like these only occur in desperate contexts. These risky attempts to cross the border are the consequence of the intimidating approach of the Moroccan security forces”, says Jose Palazón from Prodein. While not denying the influence of local and international gangs, Palazón emphasizes the responsibility of the respective governments. Regarding the ’occupation’ of Tierra island, he wonders if this might be “tolerated” - or even encouraged – “in order to put pressure on Spain facing the forthcoming ’high-level meeting’ with Morocco.”

Despite these condemnations, the Spanish and Moroccan government representatives seem to have agreed upon their response. They have chosen to evade all responsibility, contrary to international legislation, by blaming the raids and illegal deportations on the gangs. “The mafias should not try to increase their profits from human trafficking”, says Abdelmalik El Barkani, the Government of Melilla’s delegate.

Economic-political interests

The Spanish and the Moroccan government agree not only about immigration but also about other mutual problems. In January, Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish President, and Abdelilah Benkiran, his Moroccan counterpart, arranged the forthcoming ’high-level meeting’, the first one since 2008. It will take place on October 3rd, aiming to define the economic and trading relations between the two nations. Most likely, the talks will be focused on issues such as illegal immigration, drug traffic and the agriculture and fishing agreements with the European Union (EU). According to other analysts, topics concerning Western Sahara self-determination and Ceuta and Melilla might also be on the agenda. Prior to this meeting, the Spanish-Moroccan Parliamentary Forum discussed economic cooperation on renewable energy (Acciona, the Spanish company, is very interested in the Moroccan market) as well as the automobile and the fishing industry.

Meanwhile, the Spanish Interior Minister, Jorge Fernández Díaz, travelled to Rabat to “enhance cooperation on immigration”. In other words to ratify the agreement, initiated by his predecessor Pérez Rubalcaba, to create two Spanish-Moroccan police stations located in Tangier and Algeciras. Both Palazón and José Alonso, member of the Human Rights Association of Andalucia, believe the dramatic escalation of the situation in the border region is a consequence of these agreements.

Illegal activity in Tierra Island

On September 4th, under the guise of taking into care women and children, the Spanish government expelled 73 migrants that had occupied Tierra island, located just off the Moroccan coast, and placed them into the hands of the Moroccan Army (who have a history of dumping people in similar circumstances in no man’s land along the border with Algeria). Gadem, the human rights organisation, confirmed that some migrants have already started the return journey. Neither Spain nor Morocco verified the nationality of the migrants nor guaranteed their safety during the mass expulsion which should have been covered under a 1992 agreement regarding the readmission of illegal immigrants to Morocco. The illegality of the action has been condemned by several NGOs such as SOS Racism, Amnesty International, APDH-Andalucia and the Spanish Commission to Refugee Aid who say this action that will be investigated by the Ombudsman and the European Commission.

[This article was originally published in Spanish on September 17th, 2012]





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