Deaths, Deportations and Arrests: Violence Against Migrants in Morocco

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“We are in Morocco
Here, many Blacks have lost their lives
Here, it’s Boukhalef
The Moroccans call us azzia
They talk about us to scare their children
And when they see us they flee
Oh oh, it hurts us.”

Written by the Senegalese musician and no borders activist living in Tangier, Xelu Baye Fall, these words (translated from Wolof) are written “for all the people who have died at the border/For all the people who have died at the fences.” The song is about Charles Paul Alphonse Ndour, a 26 year-old Senegalese man who was killed by Moroccan men in Tangier in August 2014. The lyrics reference the racism and violence experienced daily in Morocco by sub-Saharan Africans. “Azzia”, meaning black-skinned, is a derogatory term used primarily against sub-Saharans, along with the taunt “Ebola.”

It is crucial to connect the everyday racism experienced by sub-Saharans in Morocco with the overt racism of the deadly EU border regime: the militarisation of the border as the EU spends millions to build fences (in 2015 Morocco built a fourth razor wire fence and deep trench at the border to Melilla with EU funding), the refusal of a safe passage to Europe to avoid the deaths of thousands at sea, and detaining people who do reach Europe in prison-like conditions. It was, after all, the colonial powers of Europe who were the first to impose borders across the Sahara where there had previously been none, stopping the previous high levels of migration that resulted in the collapse of trans-Saharan trade.

The Outsourcing of European Border Control

As a key country of transit from sub-Saharan Africa to Europe, Morocco has proven to be the most reliable partner out of all the countries in North Africa for the EU’s strategic policies of closing borders and controlling migration flows into Europe. Hidden behind a proclaimed humanitarian discourse of “supporting good governance and human rights”daily (often violent) raids, the destruction of migrant camps, “hot deportations” (the unlawful return of…

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