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Cablegate: Upping the Ante On Migration in Morocco:Sub-Saharans

VZCZCXYZ0005
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHCL #0193/01 2701258
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 271258Z SEP 07
FM AMCONSUL CASABLANCA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7846
INFO RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT 8094
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS 2933
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS 2056
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0595
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0308
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID 3746
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 0292
RUEHBS/AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS 0962
RUEHNK/AMEMBASSY NOUAKCHOTT 2289
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0635
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM 4693

UNCLAS CASABLANCA 000193

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

STATE ALSO FOR G/TIP, DRL/IL, NEA/RA, PRM/AFR, AND NEA/MAG

LABOR FOR ILAB

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM SMIG ELAB MO
SUBJECT: UPPING THE ANTE ON MIGRATION IN MOROCCO:SUB-SAHARANS

REF: A) 05 Casablanca 1052
B) Casablanca 0135

1. (U) This cable is sensitive but unclassified. Please protect
accordingly.

2. (SBU) Summary: The GOM insists that the number of Moroccan and
sub-Saharan migrants attempting to cross illegally into Europe has
decreased significantly in the last 18 months. The Ministry of the
Interior (MIO) estimates that the number of attempts dropped by more
than 60 percent in 2006. This year to date, they claim numbers are
continuing to fall. Despite these decreases, the number of
immigrants endeavoring to reach the Spanish coast, Canary Islands,
the two Spanish enclaves in Northern Morocco remains very high and
with increasingly deadly results. Since Spanish-Moroccan sea patrols
have tightened the blockade of traditional routes across the
Mediterranean and Atlantic, migrants are forced to attempt longer
and more dangerous paths to the EU resulting in possibly thousands
of deaths a year. In addition to the dangers at sea, the
clandestine migrants also face more challenges in Morocco as they
await their opportunity to migrate to the EU. This is part I of II
- next cable will address the increasing problem of Moroccan minors
migrating to Europe. End Summary.

----------------------------------------
Patrolling the Waters and the Wilderness
----------------------------------------

3. (U) Early in 2007, Governor of Migration and Border Monitoring
in the Interior Ministry, Khalid Zerouali, announced that the number
of illegal migration attempts from Morocco to EU had fallen 65
percent in the previous year due mainly to joint Moroccan-Spanish
maritime patrols. Subsequently, in July 2007, speaking at a
Moroccan-Spanish working group on migration, Zerouali said that as
of January 2007 Morocco's surveillance systems had prevented between
80,000 and 100,000 foreigners from entering Morocco illegally on
their way to the EU. As confirmation of Zerouali's statement, at
the same conference, Consuelo Rumi, Spain's Secretary of State in
Charge of Migration, congratulated Morocco on its advancements in
border security measures. She remarked that the number of pateras
(makeshift boats) arriving in Spain had plummeted by 56 percent last
year, thanks in part to its neighbor to the south.

4. (SBU) The system of fighting illegal migration in Morocco
includes not only the above mentioned maritime patrols but border
surveillance systems and periodic sweeps of known gathering points
for clandestines as well. According to some indigenous and
international NGOs, however, the sweeps conducted by Moroccan
security forces are violent and often result in migrants being
dumped in the Algerian desert with no food, water or shelter.
According to Louis d'or Ngala, president of Refugees Without Borders
(RSF), a Moroccan NGO, this year Moroccan police destroyed dozens of
makeshift camps that had housed thousands of sub-Saharans waiting
their opportunity to cross into one of the two Spanish enclaves in
Northern Morocco or take the treacherous trip across open waters of
the Mediterranean. Ngala reported that these sweeps are often
accompanied with killings, physical abuse and a one way ticket to
the desert.


5. (SBU) The most recent sweep, on September 17, rounded up 441
sub-Saharans and 262 Algerians in the forests outside Nador, close
to the Spanish enclave of Melilla. The following two days saw
sweeps in the Western Saharan city of Laayoune which resulted in the
arrest of over 70 sub-Saharans. Their fate is currently unclear.
Laura Lungarotti, of the International Organization for Migration
(IOM), who works closely with the GOM on voluntary repatriation,
speculates that most of those rounded up will be expelled across the
border and only a few, if any, will be repatriated voluntarily to
their country of origin. She claims that the majority will make a
second or third attempt to enter the EU either by land route to
Melilla and Sebta, or more likely, by sea to the Canary Islands.

6. (SBU) The impact of these sweeps, a common occurrence since the
storming of the enclaves in October 2005 (ref A), has been a
redistribution of the clandestine migrant population within Morocco.
Two years ago the majority of clandestine migrants in route to
Europe were found in the forested areas around the two enclaves.
Since then, according to UNHCR office director Johannes van der
Klaauw, the migrant population, estimated in 2005 to be
approximately 10,000, has relocated to Casablanca and Rabat. Pastor
David Brown, of the French Protestant Church of Morocco, has been
working with sub-Saharan migrants in Morocco for three years and
recently told poloff that he believes the current figures for
sub-Saharans are closer to 20,000. He claims the majority of these
clandestine live in Rabat as oppose to Casablanca, where costs are
prohibitive.


--------------------------------
Violence Not a Thing of the Past
--------------------------------

7. (SBU) In a July 31 roundup in Laayoune, two sub-Saharans were
reportedly shot and killed by Moroccan security forces in what the
official Moroccan press called a foiled immigration attempt. The
report said that a group of sub-Saharans tried to break through
Laayoune's security system. The security forces responded by firing
"warning shots" over the heads of the clandestine migrants, killing
two and wounding two others. The press reported that 26 were
arrested in addition to those killed and wounded while 6 managed to
escape. According to Ngala, the incident, similar to those of
October 2005, received little press and no international attention
because it occurred out of sight of EU territory. Ngala claims
those captured during the roundup were beaten and dumped in the
desert on the Mauritanian border with no provisions.

--------------------------------------
Deadly Dilemma - New Routes Cost Lives
--------------------------------------

8. (U) Despite claims that the overall number of clandestine
migration attempts are down, NGOs and some Spanish officials assert
that death tolls are increasing. Spanish officials in the Canary
Islands claimed that approximately 6000 African intending migrants
died while attempting the dangerous crossing to the Canaries in
2006. The reason for the skyrocketing number of deaths, many
speculate, is a direct result of the increased maritime patrols
between Morocco and the archipelago. Because of the blockade,
intending migrants are forced to find alternate, more dangerous
routes to their destination, departing from further south in the
Western Sahara, Mauritania or Senagal. The boats that continue to
take the risky route from Laayoune to the Canaries are fewer but so
overcrowded that the likelihood of capsizing or sinking during the
voyage has substantially increased.

9. (SBU) A similar situation has begun to emerge in the
Mediterranean as well. On September 17, the Spanish press reported
that pateras coming from Morocco reached the shores of the Valencia
region for the first time. The report said that during the previous
weekend 56 immigrants were intercepted, including 20 minors. They
also reported that four empty boats, each capable of ferrying dozens
of people, have been found in the same area. Spanish Civil Guards
reported that they had been expecting this shift in routes for some
time and had arranged for additional funding to increase security
measures which have not yet but put into place.

-------
Comment
-------

10. (SBU) Comment: Morocco has clearly demonstrated its commitment
to fight illegal migration on all fronts, much to the satisfaction
of the EU. Its recent accord recognizing the UNHCR (ref B) was a
significant step in acknowledging the legitimate presence of some
sub-Saharans in Morocco. In addition, the GOM has been working
closely with the EU on approaches to increase legal labor migration
across the Mediterranean, eliminating the need for some to enter
Europe clandestinely in search of informal employment. However, it
is increasingly clear that Morocco must continue to develop a more
humanitarian system of dealing with sub-Saharan clandestine migrants
already in the country. In addition it needs to develop systems to
identify trafficked as opposed to economic migrants and treat them
accordingly.

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