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Migrants At Moroccan-Spanish Border Concern UN

UN Refugee Agency Seeks To Resolve Migrant Problem At Moroccan-Spanish Border

Alarmed by the situation of African migrants trying to cross from Morocco into Spain’s enclaves on the southern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, the United Nations refugee agency has sent a team of senior staff to the North African country to help find a solution to the problem, which claimed six lives just last week.

Although primarily economic migrants are involved, “this extremely complex situation” includes people in need of international protection, and therefore of concern to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), spokesman Ron Redmond told a news briefing in Geneva today, noting that the agency had already sent several missions to the area.

“Despite these ongoing efforts, we remain deeply concerned by alarming reports on the plight of these desperate people,” he said. The six deaths were the latest in a series of reported violent incidents at the border fence between Morocco and the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.

“UNHCR is fully committed to help find solutions aimed at preventing the kinds of tragedies we've seen repeatedly in the Mediterranean, the Gulf of Aden and other parts of the world,” he added, referring to recent cases where at least 150 people died crossing from Somalia to Yemen in rickety boats run by ruthless smugglers.

Within large migration flows like the one through Morocco to Spain, there are often people fleeing conflict and persecution who deserve access to proper asylum procedures, Mr. Redmond said.

“While UNHCR recognizes the legitimate right of governments to take measures to manage illegal migration, we strongly urge authorities to respect international protection principles, particularly against refoulement - or forcibly returning people to a country where they face persecution; to treat everyone humanely; and to ensure that all asylum seekers are given access to fair and proper procedures,” he added.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan last week called for immigration laws and obligations to be implemented humanely, and yesterday his Special Representative for West Africa, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, warned that what is happening today with African youths is “insignificant compared to what we may be facing in a few years time” if jobs were not created in their home countries.

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