October 13, 2005

Migrants leave Morocco, carrying their trek scars

By Zakia Abdennebi

OUJDA, Morocco (Reuters) - Illegal migrants from
sub-Saharan Africa prepared to leave Morocco on Thursday,
drawing a full circle on a perilous journey marked by
humiliation, beatings and killings.

"I left my home in Mali three years ago with 800 euro in my
pocket," said Mohamed Saieba, 28, before flying out of the
eastern town of Oujda, transit point for thousands of Africans
trying to enter Europe illegally.

"I walked through the desert in Algeria and Morocco before
arriving at Gourougou forest in northern Morocco."

Now all he carried was a loaf of bread, water, some fruits
and a blanket given him by Moroccan authorities. "I have only
this blanket to bring home," Saieba said.

Around 10,000 migrants are in Morocco waiting to reach
European Union territory illegally and 20,000 more are in
Algeria waiting to join them, European intelligence officials

Morocco dispatched 4,000 troops to prevent the migrants
hiding in Gourougou and Belyounech forests in the north of the
country from storming razor-wire fences on Ceuta and Melilla --
Spanish outposts in North Africa and the only EU territories in
mainland Africa.

In recent weeks, hundreds of migrants have tried to storm
the fences. While many have managed to get across, the attempts
have sparked violence that killed 11 people and left hundreds

"Moroccan authorities had beaten me with a baton on the
head," Saieba said, pointing to a scar on his left eyebrow.

"I was caught in Ceuta three times and the authorities sent
me back and the latest attempt was early this month when
Spanish authorities handed me back to Morocco," he added.

He survived begging or scavenging dustbins in Moroccan
cities, he said, speaking before he joined 219 other illegal
migrants being deported by Rabat authorities to Mali.

Some 140 other Malian migrants were also flown from Oujda
early on Thursday, bringing the total number of illegal
migrants from Mali and Senegal deported this week to more than


"You have to be lucky in this life. I'm not. I waited three
years in Morocco to enter Europe. They caught me and they are
deporting me. I saw suffering and humiliation," said Kante
Sekou, also from Mali.

Sekou did not say whether he will try again but Bachir
Kaita said: "I've spent four years away from home to get in

"I will rest few weeks with my family and restart the trip
to the North," he added.

But fellow migrant Moussa Dialo said he feels "ashamed" to
go home poorer after a journey of four years. "My family made a
great sacrifice to give me money for the trip. Now, I'm
returning only with my dirty clothes."

Rabat, pressed by Spain to cut migrants' flows to Europe
and by local and international human rights groups to respect
migrants' rights, urged the EU to help its costly struggle.

It also urged it to design "a Marshall plan" for poor
African countries to keep would-be migrants at home.

Morocco insists the crisis at Ceuta and Melilla is only the
result of the huge wealth gap between the two sides of the