By Katie Nguyen
LONDON (AlertNet) - Migrants from sub-Saharan Africa have been subjected to increasing abuse, degrading treatment and violence by Moroccan and Spanish security forces since the end of 2011, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has said.
In the last year alone, MSF teams in Morocco’s eastern areas of Nador and Oujda, which border Algeria and the Spanish territory of Medilla, have treated the physical wounds of more than 1,100 migrants.
"Since April last year, in particular, we have seen broken arms, legs, hands and jaws, as well as broken teeth and concussions, amongst others," David Cantero, MSF head of mission in Morocco, said in a statement.
"These injuries are consistent with migrants' accounts of having been attacked by the security forces," he added.
In a new report, "Violence, Vulnerability and Migration: Trapped at the Gates of Europe", MSF said the European Union has over the past decade tightened its border controls and increasingly delegated responsibility for policing illegal immigration to countries that border it.
Since December 2011, there has been a "dramatic rise" in police raids on migrant communities in Morocco, MSF said, with reports of pregnant women, children, refugees and asylum seekers arrested and dumped in the no-man's land separating Morocco and Algeria.
And it’s not just security forces that are attacking migrants. MSF also blamed criminal gangs, bandits, smugglers and traffickers for widespread attacks against migrants.
Classified as "illegal" in Morocco, the predominantly West African migrants are offered little or no protection by the Moroccan state and so are attacked with impunity, MSF said.
"MSF's experience shows that the longer that sub-Saharan migrants are in Morocco, the more vulnerable they become," the report said.
‘NO CHOICE’ BUT TO BEG
In addition to denouncing the violence it said is a daily reality for most sub-Saharan migrants, MSF also detailed the physical and psychological toll endured by migrants who find themselves trapped in Morocco, unable to reach Europe or return home.
Most are forced to live in makeshift shelters in forests, caves and abandoned buildings with no sanitation and limited food and water. Some are begging to survive.
Almost half of the 10,500 medical consultations carried out by MSF teams between 2010 and 2012 were for problems related to terrible living conditions, MSF said.
"We are very uncomfortable, but we have no choice because if we didn't beg we would really die of hunger in the forest," 20-year-old Prince was quoted as saying in the report. "I never could have imagined a day that would see me begging. Never."
The tough circumstances of many migrants mean that anxiety and depression are common problems, MSF said.
"Many patients who have been in Morocco for months and have tried and failed to cross into Europe several times show symptoms linked to depression," an MSF psychologist said. "They feel a profound sense of failure and are unable to imagine any other kind of future for themselves."