Nat Castañeda1 Comment

Morocco cracks down on migrants heading to Spain

Nat Castañeda1 Comment
Morocco cracks down on migrants heading to Spain

Hundreds of sub-Saharan migrants escaping poverty and violence in their home countries are fleeing to forests to escape police raids in the northern Moroccan port city of Tangiers — only to be chased from their makeshift camps.

Migrants have been arriving in Morocco in increasing numbers in a bid to get to Spain via the Strait of Gibraltar. A prime route from Libya to Italy is being choked, notably by the Libyan coast guard intercepting smugglers’ boats.

Rights activists in this North African kingdom say the crackdown on migrants is the biggest since 2015.

Sub-Saharan migrants fetch for water as they take shelter in a forest near Masnana, Sept. 5, 2018, on the outskirts of Tangier, Morocco. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)

Many of those arriving in Tangiers, one of several Moroccan jump-off points to Spain, say they escaped into the forest after police smashed doors of their small shared rooms in Tangiers and took money they were making to pay smugglers.

Now, migrants say they aren’t safe in the nearby forest where they claim there are more raids, with police seizing their belongings, burning camps and forcing them onto buses to head to points in southern Morocco — further away from the northern border.

Those who escaped the raids in town and in the forest say they have nowhere left to hide.

If they return to the city, “They (authorities) ask residents to hand us over if we go asking for water,” said Skey Mansare, a migrant from Cameroon.

A Morocco government spokesman, Mustapha El Khalfi, said the country can no longer let its territory shelter human trafficking networks and refuses to play the role of gendarme of the region. Authorities say Morocco prevented 65,000 migrants from crossing to Spain in 2017.

Sub-Saharan migrants pose for a portrait as they take shelter in a forest near Masnana, Sept. 5, 2018, on the outskirts of Tangier, Morocco. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)

Sub-Saharan migrants aiming to cross to Europe are hung on a tree in a forest they had taken shelter in, Sept. 8, 2018, near Masnana, on the outskirts of Tangier, Morocco. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)

Shoes belonging to sub-Saharan migrants aiming to cross to Europe are scattered on in a forest following a police raid, Sept. 8, 2018, near Masnana, on the outskirts of Tangier, Morocco. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)

Youness Piichpa, a sub-Saharan migrant from Cameroon interacts with friends, as they take shelter in a forest overlooking the neighborhood of Masnana, Sept. 8, 2018, on the outskirts of Tangier, Morocco. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)

Sub-Saharan migrant takes shelter in a forest near Masnana, Sept. 5, 2018, on the outskirts of Tangier, Morocco. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)

Clothes belonging to sub-Saharan migrants aiming to cross to Europe are scattered on in a forest following a police raid, near Masnana, Sept. 8, 2018, on the outskirts of Tangier, Morocco. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)

 A sleeping mattress is seen on a tree in a forest where sub-Saharan migrants aiming to cross to Europe have taken shelter in, near Masnana, Sept. 8, 2018, on the outskirts of Tangier, Morocco. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)

A sleeping mattress is seen on a tree in a forest where sub-Saharan migrants aiming to cross to Europe have taken shelter in, near Masnana, Sept. 8, 2018, on the outskirts of Tangier, Morocco. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)

A sub-Saharan migrant aiming to cross to Europe walks on a burnt patch following a raid by police, near Masnana, Sept. 5, 2018, on the outskirts of Tangier, Morocco. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)

A Muslim sub-Saharan migrant aiming to cross to Europe performs prayers as he takes shelter in a forest near Masnana, Sept. 5, 2018, on the outskirts of Tangier, Morocco. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)

Tresor-Debrun, a Cameroonian migrant, poses for a portrait as he takes shelter in a forest near Masnana, Sept. 5, 2018, on the outskirts of Tangier, Morocco. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)

Sub-Saharan migrants aiming to cross to Europe take shelter in a forest overlooking the neighborhood of Masnana, Sept. 8, 2018, on the outskirts of Tangier, Morocco. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)

Alex Brandan, a Cameroonian migrant, poses for a portrait as he takes shelter in a forest near Masnana, Sept. 8, 2018, on the outskirts of Tangier, Morocco. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)

A sub-Saharan migrant aiming to cross to Europe takes shelter in a forest near Masnana, Sept. 5, 2018, on the outskirts of Tangier, Morocco. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)


Text from the AP news story, AP PHOTOS: Morocco cracks down on migrants heading to Spain, by Mosa’ab Elshamy.

Photos by Mosa’ab Elshamy

Visual artist and Digital Storyteller at The Associated Press