Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Morocco abandoning migrants on wrong side of the Berm

Many immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa, trying to reach Europe, pass through Morocco to the neighboring Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. Morocco is scrupulous in catching them, partly because it keeps Morocco immigration-suspicious France's good side.

It's been documented that Morocco doesn't repatriate all the apprehended immigrants; rather, they abandon them on the desolate eastern side of the Berm. This has been documented before, most recently in Amnesty International's 2006 Report: "They arrested some [migrants] and transported others to remote desert areas close to Morocco’s border with Algeria, where they were dumped without adequate water, food or shelter, reportedly resulting in further deaths."

So this is nothing new. What is delicious, though, is that I found proof of what's been talked about but never substantiated to me: that Polisario rescues the immigrants from almost certain death from land mines, exposure, or thirst.

This article in The Guardian describes a reporter's journey in 2005 with Polisario soldiers rescuing abandoned immigrants: "'The Africans came this way,' [a soldier] says and points to a nearby fold in the ground. 'There are mines there.'"

Why is Polisario doing this? Several reasons, I think. They're probably doing it because they don't want innocent people to die. It certainly makes great publicity, if only the world would hear about it. Or maybe Polisario just sympathizes with the migrants because they know what it's like when the world tries to forget you.


  1. Saving an innocent human life from death or any other disaster is a duty that doesn't need to be advertised. Anyone who helps a human life from a certain death should be personally satisfied of his good act. I think that if the Western Sahara conflict has reached a level where both sides start to advertise for a "human act" in order to gain political support, then it's absolutely not nice.
    People should do good by conviction, not for publicity. I think those immigrants were rescued for that noble reason and it should be preserved like that.

  2. Oh, I think Polisario rescued them for humanitarian reasons, and I'm not cheapening Polisario's sacrifice for the immigrants by talking about it or suggesting that it'll be good PR.

    It definitely is a sacrifice, too, when you consider that Polisario is taking on more people in the camps even while they desperately need food for their own people.