October 10, 2005

Morocco flies migrants to Senegal and Mali

By Zakia Abdennebi

OUJDA, Morocco (Reuters) - Morocco, under pressure to stem
illegal immigration to Spain and accused by rights groups of
mistreating migrants, began flying detained Africans to Senegal
and Mali on Monday, government officials said.

"We have already flown 140 illegal migrants back home to
Senegal this morning and we are preparing a flight of 140
others also to Senegal soon from Oujda," a senior official told

After arriving back in Dakar, some of the repatriated
Senegalese complained of ill treatment. But some also vowed to
try to reach Europe again.

"Neither the Algerians nor the Moroccans wanted us. We were
thrown at the mercy of the desert. Some people died in inhumane
conditions," photographer Fallou Diouf, 35, told Reuters.

"Destiny returned me to Dakar but I will go back."

Moroccan officials said 365 Senegalese would be deported by
plane on Monday and over the next few days as well as 600
people from Mali.

Moroccan Junior Foreign Minister Taieb Fihri met Senegal's
minister in charge of expatriates Abdou Malal Diop and his
Malian counterpart Dicko Omar Hamadoun on Monday to discuss
migrant deportations, the state news agency MAP said.

Fihri said, in remarks carried by MAP, Rabat "will not
tolerate the illegal presence on its territory" of migrants.

Oujda lies 540 km (337 miles) east of Rabat and is an entry
point for illegal migrants from Algeria.

"Morocco has agreements with Mali and Senegal allowing
Rabat to deport illegal migrants to these two countries," said
a senior government official, who did not want to be

"Morocco alone is paying for these deportations and does
not receive aid from outside," he added.

The officials gave no further details about the deported
migrants but rights activists said they were among 1,500 dumped
by Moroccan authorities in the desert last week before they
managed to trek back to camps in the Feguig area.

Medical aid organization Medecins Sans Frontieres said it
had discovered hundreds of people, including pregnant women and
children, who said they were rounded up by Moroccan forces and
abandoned in the desert.

The migrants, most from sub-Saharan Africa, had been
escorted by Moroccan authorities in buses from the north of the
kingdom, where they had been trying to enter Spain illegally.


Hundreds of Africans have in recent weeks stormed the
Spanish North African outposts of Ceuta and Melilla, the only
European Union territory located in Africa.

Madrid and Rabat have responded by sending troops to the
frontier and Spain has deported some of the new arrivals back
to Morocco, a move denounced by humanitarian groups.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the two governments
to treat the migrant groups humanely. The EU and United Nations
are sending teams to Morocco amid growing concern about how the
authorities are treating immigrants.

Francesca Fontanini, spokeswoman for U.N. refugee agency
UNHCR, was with a UNHCR delegation that visited a holding
centre for immigrants in Melilla.

"We are interested in speaking to the people who have come
to Melilla from countries where there are conflicts such as
Ivory Coast, Sudan, Congo, Liberia or Sierra Leone to see if
there is a possibility of political asylum," she said.

On Friday, Moroccan Communications Minister Nabil
Benabdallah responded to criticism of Rabat's treatment of the
migrants by saying it was respecting human rights.

(Additional reporting by Diadie Ba in Dakar)