RABAT, Morocco – Morocco is still abusing sub-Saharan migrants, especially those trying to enter the Spanish enclaves on its coast, despite announcing a more humanitarian immigration policy last year, Human Rights Watch said Monday in a new report.
Migrants seeking to enter the Spanish enclave of Melilla on Morocco's coast told the rights group they were beaten by both Moroccan and Spanish forces.
Morocco is a major transit point for immigrants from all over sub-Saharan African seeking either to cross the Mediterranean or enter the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, which are perched on the Moroccan coast. There are an estimated 25,000 sub-Saharan Africans living illegally in Morocco, most hoping to immigrate to Europe.
Hundreds of migrants often storm the security fences at Ceuta and Melilla to force their way in and have to be stopped by border guards. The bodies of seven migrants were recovered last week off the coast of Ceuta after another such attempt.
The report said Moroccan forces often severely beat the immigrants they catch and steal their money and belongings.
The rights group did note that the Moroccan policy of expelling migrants into the desert along the closed Algerian-Moroccan border appears to have ceased. Instead many of the migrants are often bused down to Rabat and deposited there.
Morocco announced a new immigration policy in September involving greater respect for human rights and including the rare option of residency for some migrants.