Morocco/Spain: MSF reveals violence suffered by "illegal sub-Saharan immigrants" at the hands of police forces and gangs

On 30 September 2005, the international humanitarian doctors' organisation Medècins sans Frontières (MSF) published a report in which it highlights that a large proportion (2,193 out of 9,350) of the people it has treated sought medical help because they suffered the "after-effects of violence". In over half the cases, the migrants claimed that Moroccan (44%) and Spanish (18%) police forces had been responsible for their injuries, with organised gangs and people traffickers also figuring in the categories of groups which caused injuries in over 10% of cases. The incidents reported by MSF, which it claims reveal "systematic violence and degrading treatment", include deaths, gunshot wounds, beatings and attacks by dogs when fleeing Moroccan security forces.

Part 2 of the report focuses on the patterns of violence and human rights violations suffered by "illegal sub-Saharan immigrants". They include systematic raids in urban, peri-urban and rural areas which often involve the use of excessive violence, unjustified blocks and checks on means of transport, legal/administrative irregularities such as detention in prisons and abandonment on the Moroccan-Algerian border, which is referred to as a no man's land. The report highlights that extrajudicial expulsions are carried out by the Guardia Civil (Spain's paramilitary police force) through a door in the border fence, contravening legal procedure and human rights commitments in the field of human rights. Incidents in the Moroccan-Spanish border areas are listed, including "arrests, excessive use of force, degrading treatment and abuse, sexual violence, extrajudicial expulsions and expulsions of persons at risk". The reported incidents are documented in the report using witness statements. One of these, which refers to the excessive use of force by Moroccan security forces made by a victim of an incident that took place near the border fence of the Spanish enclave of Melilla on the northern coast of Africa reads as follows:

"Statement. Fence between Melilla and Ceuta, 22 February 2004. ABK, 32 from Senegal, and two others are discovered by several auxiliary force agents. Claiming legitimate defence, one of the agents opens fire and hits ABK in the right forearm, causing partial loss of bone mass and soft tissue in addition to a comminuted fracture. ABK is evacuated to Hassani Hospital in Nador where is admitted to a penitentiary unit for three months and later held in prison for a further five months. On his release, ABK is taken to the Moroccan-Algerian border. In that same incident, one of his friends sustained a bullet wound to the shoulder while the other lost his life after been shot in the head."

MSF describes this report as an attempt to "raise awareness about the lack of protection and defence available to this human collective", "illustrate the violence used by Moroccan and Spanish security forces against illegal sub-Saharan immigrants" and to open a discussion on other forms of violence suffered by this collective, such as inter-group violence or that committed by human trafficking networks and common criminals. The report is a reminder of the human rights implications of the EU's efforts to export its immigration policies to neighbouring countries.

Full-text version of the MSF report: Violence and immigration. Report on illegal sub-Saharan Africans in Morocco, 30 September 2005 (pdf)

MSF website:

MSF Press release, 30.9.2005

In Morocco, violence from both authorities and gangs are major threat to immigrants

MSF is concerned that these findings reveal systematic violence and degrading treatment which only serve to increase the suffering and marginalisation of people who are already exposed to extremely precarious and often inhumane conditions.

Madrid/Rabat: In a report released today (to be web-posted asap), the international humanitarian aid organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reveals escalating violence against immigrants crossing from Morocco to Spain. The organisation reports up to a quarter of its patients are seeking medical treatment as a result of persecution and attacks.

Since early 2003, MSF has been running mobile clinics and monitoring the immigrant community for disease outbreaks. Medical data and testimonies collected from migrants reveal that of the 10,232 medical consultations conducted between April 2003 and August 2005, 2,544 are violence related.
This places violence as the greatest health risk to this vulnerable population, along with illness related to poor living conditions.
Immigrants who have been victims of violence and treated by MSF say that their injuries are caused by:

- 44% Moroccan police forces
- 18% the Spanish forces
- 17% criminal gangs
- 12% mafia groups or networks trafficking with people,
- 2% in-fighting between immigrants
- 7% accidental

Injuries include gunshot wounds, beatings and attacks by dogs when trying to escape Moroccan security forces. Deaths have also occurred.
MSF is concerned that these findings reveal systematic violence and degrading treatment which only serve to increase the suffering and marginalisation of people who are already exposed to extremely precarious and often inhumane conditions.

MSF in Morocco

MSF currently has medical programmes in Tangier, Nador and Oujda. Mobile clinics provide preventative care (vaccinations, antenatal care, family planning), HIV/AIDS care and logistical supplies. MSF is also attempting to make the Moroccan authorities more aware of the vulnerability of these migrants. MSF has worked in Morocco since 1997.


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