Sub-Saharan Africans in Tangiers revolt after migrant’s death
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A migrant from Cameroon died after falling from the fourth floor of his residential building Wednesday during a police operation in the Boukhalef neighbourhood in Tangiers, Morocco. Other residents, most of them sub-Saharan migrants, immediately took to the street to claiming police brutality.
Migrants carrying the corpse of a young Cameroonian in Tangiers. Photo by Yassine Yachiri for Tanger24.
A migrant from Cameroon died after falling from the fourth floor of his residential building Wednesday during a police operation in the Boukhalef neighbourhood in Tangiers, Morocco. Other residents, most of them sub-Saharan migrants, immediately took to the street claiming police brutality.
Migrants carrying the young Cameroonian man. Photo by Yassine Yachiri for Tanger24.
It’s the third death of a sub-Saharan migrant during a police operation in Tangiers in as many months. A witness to the raid told RFI radio the young Cameroonian man was in contact with the High Commission for Refugees. The man reportedly resisted when the police carried out a series of arrests that afternoon at the building where he lived. Moments later, his lifeless body lay on the ground at the base of the building.
The Cameroonian man's corpse. Photo by Yassine Yachiri for Tanger24.
Outraged by the incident, dozens of residents gathered around the corpse, which they tried to take to the morgue themselves, but Moroccan police blocked their route. There were sporadic clashes with police in the hours that followed. After mediation from human rights officials, the migrant’s body was finally handed over to police. In exchange, a group of 10 migrants were allowed to accompany the corpse to the morgue.
"We wanted to take the body to the morgue ourselves in order to show that we’re determined to find out the circumstances of his death"
Raphael is also from Cameroon and has been living illegally in Tangiers for eight months.
I was in a nearby building when the police arrived. In fact, it was the second time that they came to make arrests that day. It’s rare for them to come twice in one day, so we were all surprised. Obviously during these events, everyone is trying to save their own skin. It was only afterwards that Moroccans and some of the migrants told me that the young man went to the top of the building to try to evade the police. At the end, he was cornered and, according to them, he was pushed [FRANCE 24 has been unable to independently confirm this].
Migrants protesting after the young man's death. Photo by Yassine Yachiri for Tanger24.
The police left when ambulances arrived. We immediately gathered around the body, because this wasn’t the first time this had happened. Each time, police take the victim’s body away and there’s no investigation. This time, we wanted to take it ourselves to the morgue to show that we’re determined to find out the circumstances of his death.
These police operations have been taking place every day for the past three months, each time with the same brutality. People need to know how we’re being treated here. It can’t continue like this.
"I spent the night wondering whether the man could have jumped on purpose or not"
Idir is Guinean. He lives in Casablanca but has been spending the past few weeks in the Boukhalef neighbourhood.
Even I, with legal papers, have been picked up by the police before. They take everyone: illegal migrants, students, legal workers, etc…and they only check afterwards whether you have broken the law. I have been arrested several times in Tangiers and taken back to Casablanca where I live most of the time. It’s absurd, since my papers allow me to move around the country.
Boukhalef is mostly inhabited by sub-Saharan Africans, especially those from Cameroon and Senegal. When the police arrest them, they are sent out into the desert, beyond the border with Algeria. But from there, they always go to Oujda, a border town, then find a way back to Tangiers. I spent the night wondering whether this man could have jumped on purpose. I don’t think so. Everyone knows that if they’re arrested, they’ll go to the desert and they will return.
The authorities have denied all involvement in the man’s death. An inquiry has been opened to determine the circumstances.
The Moroccan Association for Human Rights has frequently criticised the violent treatment of sub-Saharan migrants during large-scale operations to send them to the border. Hinting at the unease, King Mohammed VI announced in September that this issue needs to be examined “in a global and humanist way”, while denying that “security forces systematically use violence”.
Currently, around 20,000 sub-Saharan migrants live in Morocco, most of them without legal papers.
All photos courtesy of Tanger 24 journalist Yassine Lachiri.