'Where are Salif and Moussa?': The arrest and disappearance of Morocco's illegal migrants

These screengrabs are from a video showing police arresting two migrants in the Takadoum neighbourhood in Rabat. The incident took place on January 28, 2021, according to our Observer, who sent us this video. © Youtube
These screengrabs are from a video showing police arresting two migrants in the Takadoum neighbourhood in Rabat. The incident took place on January 28, 2021, according to our Observer, who sent us this video. © Youtube © Youtube
Text by: Djamel Belayachi
4 min

The video, filmed on January 28, shows two Black men lined up against a wall in Rabat, Morocco as police search them. A scuffle then breaks out between one of the men and an officer. Both men, who are migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, are arrested and taken away. According to their friend, who shared this video with the FRANCE 24 Observers team, they haven’t been seen since. In many cities in Northern Morocco— especially Rabat— police regularly arrest migrants from sub-Saharan Africa and move them as far as possible from the Spanish border.

Advertising

These arrests are often violent, according to the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH). In Rabat, police carry out most of these arrests in working class neighbourhoods with large communities from sub-Saharan Africa, especially in the Takadoum, Massira and Yakoub El Mansour neighbourhoods.

Capture d'écran
Capture d'écran © Youtube

This video, showing migrants being arrested was filmed on January 28 in Rabat. It was shared with our team by our Observer Eric (not his real name).

 

Eric (not his real name) is a migrant who lives in the Takadoum neighbourhood. He says he is afraid that his two friends, whose arrests are shown in this video, were driven to the town of Oujda, on the border with Algeria, or worse, were imprisoned. 

'This kind of arrest is practically a daily occurrence in Morocco'

The incident took place around 5pm on January 28 near 6, rue Bizanta in the Takadoum neighbourhood. It was a neighbour woman, who is also from sub Saharan Africa, who filmed the video.

A group of us— four friends— were together when, suddenly, we encountered two officers from the auxiliary force [Editor’s note: a special security service that supports the work of Moroccan police and gendarmes]. I managed to flee, along with my friend. But the two others, Salif and Moussa [not their real names] didn’t manage to escape and were arrested. 

I haven’t had any word from my friends since their arrest. I’ve been unable to reach them by telephone.

I don’t know if they were transported to the Algerian border or brought to prison, since there was an altercation with one of the police officers. 

The FRANCE 24 Observers team attempted to contact the Rabat police to find out what happened to the two men who were arrested. We will update this page if we get a response. 

 

'Often, they suffer racist insults and beatings and have their belongings—like telephones and money—taken from them.'

Moroccan human rights organisation AMDH also shared the video of the arrest on social media. Omar Nadji, who is the vice president of the Nador sector (a town in northeastern Morocco), has spoken out against these arbitrary arrests. 

There haven’t been mass arrests of migrants recently. However, there have been daily arrests, especially in Rabat. People from sub-Saharan Africa are often arrested for no reason in the street, without having done anything, which is unacceptable. 

What is happening is that the authorities are trying to move migrants away from northern regions to prevent them from trying to reach Spain by boat or climbing the fences to get into the Spanish enclaves in Ceuta and Melilla. The migrants are loaded into buses and brought to towns in the centre of the country, like Beni Mellal or Marrakesh.   

Often, they suffer racist insults and beatings and have their belongings— like telephones and money— taken from them.

Some migrants have also been taken to the town of Tiouli, located on the Algerian border, about 50 kilometres from Oujda. There, the migrants are forced to cross the border into Algeria. In this case, they often stay in Algeria for a few months to work and save money before returning to Morocco.

Thousands of migrants travel through Morocco before making an attempt to reach Europe through the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, or recently, through the Canary Islands.

Many say that they fall victim to racism and police violence in Morocco. Aside from Rabat, Moroccan police also regularly carry out raids in the forests near Tangiers, where many migrants live in hiding before making an attempt to cross the strait of Gibraltar to reach Spain. 

In July 2020, a man from Cameroon was killed when police dismantled an illegal encampment in a forest north of Tangiers. 

Read on the Observers >> Cameroonian migrant killed in Morocco after police find forest encampment