The first conference to discuss what can be done to help Sub-Saharan migrants in transit in Morocco was held this week in London.
The Moroccan NGO, Association Beni Znassen pour la culture (ABCDS), with support from the Migrants Rights Network, launched its European-wide campaign to raise awareness about the plight of sub-Saharan African migrants in Morocco, at a highly successful one day conference.
‘The war against migrants at EU’s new borders’ event, which will be quickly followed by meetings in Germany, Belgium and France, was the opening salvo in the campaign to launch the ‘”Euro-African network” – a forum for productive dialogue between sub-Saharan Africa, the Maghreb and Europe’.
ABCDS Morocco, based in the town of Oudja (on the Moroccan-Algerian border), is the only organisation providing humanitarian relief to impoverished sub-Saharan migrants who travel through Morocco in their bid to reach Europe. These destitute and desperate migrants, having undergone horrendous journeys across the Algerian desert, live in the most appalling conditions, in forests, caves and abandoned warehouses, and in constant fear of police detection and return to the Algerian border.
Maghreb-African network formed
Originally formed to increase youth participation in projects against poverty and for social solidarity, ABCDS was soon drawn to the plight of the migrants. It launched the ‘Committee of Help’ to promote Moroccan solidarity with sub-Saharan Africans and provide assistance for migrants in extreme distress. In his keynote speech to the conference, the president of ABCDS, Hicham Baraka, drew attention to the impact of the militarisation of EU’s southern border at the Spanish North African enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta. It is this ‘sub-contracting’ by the EU of its border controls that has poisoned relations between Morocco and the EU (particularly Spain). Hicham Baraka’s message that Morocco cannot be the ‘policeman for Europe’ was backed by Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn (who spoke of the similar role played by the Mexican government vis-à-vis the policing of migratory movements from Central America) and European MEP Jean Lambert. Though she was on a fact-finding delegation of detention centres in Poland, she sent a videoed message of support to the event in which she spoke of the pressure being brought to bear on the European Commission to re-evaluate readmission agreements with countries such as Morocco.
The ABCDS Committee of Help runs a 24-hour emergency helpline and provides relief for migrants in distress – blankets, food, and credit for mobile phones (the only means of keeping in touch with loved ones). ABCDS is already part of a network of Maghrebian and African NGOs, which extends from Morocco and Mauritania to Senegal and Mali. But, if this Maghreb-African alliance is to achieve results, it needs European partners, hence the proposal for a Euro-African Network.
Many of the conference speakers, such as Sylvie Aboa-Bradwall (coordinator of the International Office Centre for Democracy and Development, an NGO striving for sustainable democracy in Africa) and Fatima Mourad (Al-Hasaniya Moroccan women’s project in west London) focussed on the need to galvanise Moroccan and sub-Saharan diasporas in Europe. Many Moroccans have dual nationality and, as the providers of important foreign remittances, may have leverage with the Moroccan government. Fatima Mourad informed the conference that the first general meeting of the Moroccan Diaspora (from twelve countries, including US and Canada) took place in December 2006 in Rabat. The plight of sub-Saharan migrants and the lack of a Moroccan infrastructure to deal with migration was discussed and the meeting concluded with a declaration to the Moroccan government to refuse its assigned role as guardian of the security and protectionist policies of the EU. In an emotional plea, conference coordinator Fatiha Hajjat (ABCDS London) called on the audience to ‘bring humanity back into the debate’, by ‘creating solidarity from the bottom up’.
ABCD London c/o Migrants’ Rights Network