Statement by GADEM: The Moroccan and Spanish law enforcement agencies are accomplicit in the violence against migrants

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Statement by GADEM [Groupe antiraciste d'accompagnement et de défence des étrangers et migrants] 25/11/2011

Two attempts to intercept migrants at sea by the Moroccan and Spanish law enforcement agencies have led to the drowning of several people and to the violent arrest and refoulement of dozens of survivors.

Citing information from MAP [Moroccan press agency], in its edition of 5-6 November 2011, Al Massae newspaper reported the refoulement by the Moroccan authorities of 90 people on 25 October and of 60 people on 3 November, who were attempting the crossing into Ceuta (Sebta) by sea.

The many testimonies that GADEM has collected enable us to claim that their interceptions at sea while they sought to reach Ceuta were particularly violent, and deadly in certain cases. These operations have given rise to disproportionate acts of violence and numerous abuses. Other serious events, both previous and more recent, are a repetition of the same type of practices by the Moroccan and/or Spanish authorities that seriously endanger these people's right to life.

The 90 people who were refouled to the Algerian border on 25 October are the survivors of a shipwreck caused following the joint intervention by the Moroccan and Spanish security forces to intercept their vessel which was trying to sail around the fencing erected on the coast between Fnidq and Ceuta. While some migrants managed to enter the territory under Spanish control, between 10 and 15 people drowned, according to testimonies that agree on this point.

On 3 November, 74 people who were nationals of different sub-Saharan African countries [Footnote: 1] attempted to reach Ceuta by swimming. They were caught by the Moroccan Navy's boats, while rubber bullets fired by the Spanish Guardia Civil [police force with military status] slowed down their progress and Moroccan civilians, apparently incited to do so by the Moroccan law enforcement agencies, threw rocks at them from the shore. Only 13 people were able to reach the waters in the vicinity of Ceuta. The first three people who arrived were immediately handed over by the Guardia Civil to the Moroccan auxiliary forces which, however, refused to take back the other 10 migrants.

The migrants interviewed by GADEM accuse men in uniforms who they felt were Moroccan soldiers of beating them and of holding some of their heads beneath the water until they almost drowned before taking them to the shore, where they allegedly stole their money and mobile phones.

After taking them into different police stations in the surrounding area and then gathering them in the one in Tetouan, they were transported by bus towards the police stations in Oujda before they were finally refouled to the border with Algeria, except for five people, who were separated from the rest of the group, allegedly because they had been seriously injured during the operation to arrest them.

According to the testimonies we collected, these practices are recurrent [1] and they accompany the hunt for migrants in the forests of northern Morocco, the regular destruction of camps where migrants seek shelter [2] and the violent acts that take place while this happens.

In a statement released on 9 September 2011 [3], GADEM denounced a series of round-ups enacted against sub-Saharan migrants in Rabat and Nador in response to a growing pressure exercised by Spain on Morocco. GADEM had warned about the intensification of police repression announced by Mr. Khalid Zerouali, the official in charge of immigration and border controls within the interior ministry.

GADEM deems that the abuses committed in the vicinity of Ceuta are the result of complicity between the Moroccan and Spanish authorities to curb the entry of migrants into Europe. These violent actions are manifestly in contrast with provisions in Moroccan legislation (not assisting people who are in danger, violence, procedures to escort people to the border, rights of defence, protection against violence and seizures, etc.) and in the international conventions that have been duly ratified by Morocco.

They also highlight certain customary practices that have been enacted for years outside of any legal framework, like the immediate and collective return of migrants by the Spanish authorities to Moroccan ones without examining their personal situation and without complying with the international obligation not to refoule asylum seekers.
GADEM exhorts the Moroccan authorities, as well as bodies for the defence of human rights, particularly the Conseil National des Droits de l'Homme (CNDH, National Human Rights Council), to quickly adopt the necessary measures to put an end to these practices and to monitor the respect for rights and the dignity of foreigners in Morocco. Light must be shed on the allegations of violence perpetrated by or in complicity with agents of the state against this population, violent acts that are regularly denounced by GADEM [4] and some other organisations.

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[1] Moreover, GADEM has already denounced these practices. Read, GADEM, "11 naufragés repêchés dans la mer Méditerranée et refoulés à la frontière algérienne 24 heures plus tard" [11 survivors rescued in the Mediterranean Sea and refouled to the Algerian border 24 hours later], Statement, 23 September 2009.

[2] The association Prodhein has denounced the escalation in the hunt against migrants in northern Morocco in a statement published on 17 November. Available at,
"they take them in lorries, they leave them in the middle of nowhere and they scare them by firing into the air. When they approach Algeria, a similar welcome awaits them, more shots fired into the air to make them turn back. Some manage to get out of this limbo, whereas others never return". [extract]

[3] "Les forces de l'ordre marocaines vont pleinement reprendre leur rythme à réaliser leurs tâches habituelles" [Moroccan law enforcement agencies will return to their rhythm in carrying out their usual tasks]

[4] See the section on "communiqués/rapports" (statements/reports) by GADEM in its website, at


[1] Malians, Senegalese, from the Ivory Coast, Cameroonians, Togolese and Nigerians

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