On Friday, July 31, when many Moroccans were celebrating the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha, a Cameroonian migrant was killed after police found a migrant camp in the forest outside the northern city of Tangier. Police in the region have opened an investigation into the circumstances of the death. Thirteen other migrants were arrested after accompanying the deceased to the hospital.

Videos of a group of sub-Saharan Africans carrying the body of a fellow migrant on a stretcher made of leaves and branches went viral on Moroccan social media channels during the weekend of Eid Al Adha. The man whose body can be seen in the video, known as Félix, was a migrant from Cameroon who was making his way, along with other migrants, toward Europe.

 
 Félix, a Cameroonian migrant, died on July 31 after Moroccan police found the camp where he lived in the forest.

Moroccan authorities said that officers of the Auxiliary Forces responded to a report of a fire near the Donabo Gardens west of Tangier and encountered a group of migrants in the forest.

“They took our shoes and confiscated everything”

Cameroonian migrant Joseph (name changed for privacy) has been living in Morocco for more than a year and a half. He met Félix in Tangier and formed a community with him and other Cameroonian migrants. He and other migrants were hiding on the shore of the Strait of Gibraltar, less than 25km from the coast of Spain, when police found them:
 
We were in the forest, at the edge of the water. We were hiding there. The police officers were searching in the forest and they found us, but we didn’t make any noise. They told us to calm down and come out of the forest. They took our shoes off and made us get out. Then they started to confiscate everything that we had. They took everything. They started to look through our phones and we said, “Please, leave us our phones at least so we can call our families. The one good thing we have, the one thing we have, is our phones. You took everything, at least leave us that.” They said “No.”

We got down on our knees. They said they were going to take everything and we resisted. We pushed back with boat paddles and they were hitting us with knives, each one had two knives in their hands. We pushed them back: they ran away from the paddles. We started running, all running in different directions. I was out of breath and very afraid that they would take me.

To escape the police, Joseph ran back to a house the migrants had stayed in before. It was only then that he learned that one of his friends was dead.
 
As soon as I arrived at the house, someone called me to tell me Felix had died at the camp and that some others had gone back to find the body.

Videos show other migrants carrying Félix’s body on a makeshift stretcher, accompanied by several police officers.

A sub-Saharan migrant is taken into an ambulance in Tangier. 

Authorities from the Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceima municipality told Moroccan media outlets that when officers arrived at the scene, one of the migrants was already unconscious. However, Joseph said that Félix was in good health and unscathed before the police arrived. According to witness testimonies gathered by the Moroccan Association for Human Rights in Nador, the migrant was “hit violently on the head” by police after being arrested by the beach.

Félix was taken to Mohammed V Hospital in Tangier where he was pronounced dead. The 13 migrants who carried him then accompanied him to the hospital were arrested.

“We try to work together because it’s very difficult for us here”

Morocco is the last step for migrants hoping to enter the European Union by sea, crossing the Strait of Gibraltar to reach Spain’s coastline less than 25km away.

Others try to cross through the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, which have Europe’s only land borders with Africa. Morocco has increased security at these borders this year, making passage much more difficult for migrants. The country claims to have prevented more than 70,000 attempts at “irregular migration” in 2019.

Many sub-Saharan migrants take temporary work, beg for money, and sleep in forests and houses on their way north. Joseph explained that it is expensive to stay in houses, so he and other migrants move between houses and forests to save money and advance toward Europe.

Little by little we advanced, we left the house to go to the forest, to get closer little by little. We can’t go from one house to another because it costs money. So we left the house to go to the first forest, the second forest, the third forest, to move towards Europe. We leave the forest to eat, to ask for money to buy food. We try to work together because it’s very difficult for us here to go to Europe.

While in Morocco, migrants report experiencing racism and police violence. Police regularly conduct raids and roundups in the forests outside of Tangier. In 2018, Amnesty International called Morocco’s crackdown on sub-Saharan migrants in northern cities “cruel and unlawful.”


Article written by Pariesa Young