Morocco navy fires at migrant boat, wounding boy

The Morocco navy opened fire on a boat transporting migrants from the North African country to Spain, wounding a 16-year-old boy in the process, a military source told newswire Agence France Presse (AFP) on 10 October 2018.

The boy, who was shot in the shoulder, was taken to hospital in Tangiers. He was reported to be slightly wounded.

The military source said that despite warning shots, “the suspicious motorboat that was carrying 58 migrants hidden under tarpaulin made a hostile manoeuvre which significantly threatened the safety of the navy team and forced them to fire a shot to immobilise it.”

The latest shooting was the second of its kind in two weeks. On 25 September 2018, a 22-year-old female migrant was killed and three others wounded after navy officers fired shots in response to what they called “hostile manoeuvres”. The country’s royal navy said its units have returned all intercepted migrants safely back to Morocco.

Since 2017, the route between Morocco and Spain has become one of the most popular for migrants heading northwards to Europe. This is partially due to the current situation in Libya, which has seen increasing violence as armed groups battle for control over the country’s capital, Tripoli. Many irregular migrants can also enter Morocco legally as most Africans can visit the country without visas. They work as day labourers or farm hands to save enough to pay smugglers to take them across the Mediterranean.

But the Moroccan military has been increasing its patrol and surveillance. In the first 10 days of October 2018, it has intercepted 32 inflatable boats carrying 675 irregular migrants. Between January and August this year, Morocco says it has intercepted at least 54,000 irregular migrants heading to European shores, a 15 percent increase from the same period in 2017.

On the mainland, the Moroccan police are also conducting regular raids of areas popular with irregular migrants looking to cross the highly guarded and fenced Spanish land and sea routes. Migrants caught are then bussed down to the south of the country, where they save to travel up north again. Morocco’s interior ministry told Reuters that 74 trafficking networks had been dismantled since January 2018. The country spends at least EUR 200 million annually to keep its borders safe.

Migrants who make it to mainland Spain still face a host of challenges. They are often held in poor conditions at detention centres, with long waiting times before they can put in their asylum paper work.

TMP – 16/10/2018

Photo credit: Morocco World News. Moroccan Royal Navy patrol boat.

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