Female migrants face sexual abuse and extortion at the hands of Moroccan security forces

Sub-Saharan African migrants, particularly women, continue to be exposed to sexual violence, physical abuse and degrading treatment by Moroccan police and military, human rights organisations and media agencies said.

Two human rights organisations, the Association Marocaine des Droits Humains (AMDH) and Groupe Antiraciste d’Accompagnement et de Défense des Etrangers et Migrants (GADEM), have been documenting the abuse and exploitation of migrants. GADEM reported that, in July and August of this year, at least 7,700 migrants were victims of unlawful detainment or internal deportation in Morocco. The real figure is suspected to be much higher. The Telegraph, a UK-based daily newspaper, also published a series of stories in November 2018 from women who said police have demanded sexual favours from them in return for allowing them to pass borders and checkpoints.

Speaking to The Telegraph, a female migrant from Cameroon said she was raped at knife-point by a policeman. The incident occurred when security forces raided the room she was being kept in by smugglers in the port city of Tangier. Recounting her experience, she said, “He brought out the sword he was carrying and said if I did not accept his advances he would hurt me.”

Although she was allowed to board the boat, the vessel was intercepted shortly after its departure. Soon after the failed journey, she learned that she was pregnant. By lying to her husband, she managed to obtain the money needed to have an abortion. Speaking of the pain and isolation the attack caused her, she said, “I can never forget this misfortune of my life; my husband, my family do not know what has happened to me.”

This is not an isolated incident. In fact, the sexual exploitation of female migrants by Moroccan border authorities seems to be all too common. A 28-year-old woman from Guinea experienced a similar ordeal at the hands of another policeman. She was on the same boat as the migrant from Cameroon during an attempted crossing. She estimated that, “Out of [all] the women on the boat, 60 percent had sex with the police.”

Another female migrant from Senegal, aged 31, told The Telegraph that two Moroccan policemen raped her when she attempted to cross the border near the town of Guerguerat. The attack occurred when she told the officials that she could not pay the bribe they had demanded as payment for letting her pass.

Having received EUR 807 million in “bilateral assistance” from the European Union within the past four years, and set to receive another EUR 107 million to curb and manage irregular migration to Europe, Morocco has been hardening its stance in handling Europe-bound sub-Saharan African migrants. This year, the country’s navy has intercepted around 70,000 Europe-bound irregular migrants and dismantled more than 120 human trafficking networks.

In September of this year, EU leaders stressed their readiness to strike up a border management deal with the North African countries, including Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Given the current situation in Libya, the western Mediterranean route between Morocco and Spain has become the most favoured by irregular migrants heading northwards to Europe.

Morocco will also host the Intergovernmental Conference to Adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, in December 2018. Several countries in the EU, the US and Australia are among the countries who say they will not sign the agreement.

TMP – 4/12/2018

Photo: JOE WALLEN / The Telegraph. A migrant camp near Oujda, Morocco.

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