Angry migrants shouted and accused the Moroccan police of stealing their money and mobile phones as they were put aboard a deportation flight at a military base in the southern Moroccan city of Goulimine.
The 129 Cameroonians, some shouting and cursing, were flown to Cameroon’s southwestern port city of Douala from Goulimine, 650km south of Rabat, the Moroccan capital.
Their flight was the last of seven that have shipped 970 people from Goulimine in recent days.
Nearly 1600 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa were flown home on special flights from the northeast city of Oujda, near the Algerian border, last week.
Deportations were in response to
Migrants habitually transit through the North African kingdom in an effort to reach two Spanish enclaves in the north that would give them a foothold in Europe.
The mass deportations were in response to migrants storming barbed-wire fences around the enclaves, Melilla and Ceuta, and a decision by Spain to send back to Morocco those who managed to scale the barriers.
However, the situation ballooned beyond an immigration crisis after a long-standing Moroccan foe, the Polisario Front, alleged on Friday that Morocco was dumping some migrants in the vast Western Sahara desert.
On Sunday, Moroccan Prime Minister Driss Jettou claimed Algeria was behind the allegations and was using the migrant issue as a propaganda tool.
Moroccan PM Driss Jettou says
Algeria backs the Polisario and provides bases for the movement which wants independence for the Western Sahara.
Morocco annexed the territory in 1975 and claims it as its own.
On Monday, the Algerian Foreign Ministry called the claims “fallacious and outrageous” and said Morocco was making “inappropriate and unjustified mixture” between the migrant issue and the Western Sahara.
The statement referred to the Moroccan prime minister’s accusations as a “deplorable escalation of malicious and defamatory words against Algeria” and as “unfortunate hostility”.
Migrants, too, had tough words for Morocco.
“I don’t have any money. Why did the Moroccan authorities take our money?” Herve Zamba Achry, 26, shouted from a bus. He took off his shirt and shoes in protest.
“I don’t have any money. Why did the Moroccan authorities take our money?”
Herve Zamba Achry,
“We didn’t sign a [release] form” and the deportations were not voluntary, he said.
One deportee complained of losing two mobile phones to the authorities.
“Everyone says what he thinks, but I assure you that the majority want to return,” said Mugnol Amoungam, first secretary of the Cameroon Embassy.
Morocco has been negotiating with more than a dozen countries to get them to take back their citizens. Most of the deported come from Senegal and Mali.
Ahmed Himdi, governor of the Goulimine region, dismissed claims that police stole money from the migrants.
“I certainly deny it,” he said.
About 206 migrants remain at
“These were voluntary departures… We have conducted them based on humanitarian principles. We are treating them with the utmost dignity.”
It was not clear how many more people Morocco would deport.
Officials said 206 other migrants from more than a dozen nationalities remained at the Goulimine base.
The Moroccan authorities must identify them, then, based on discussions with embassies, decide what to do, officials said.
Himdi noted that Morocco undertook the deportations alone even though it has said that the problem of migrants is an international issue that requires broad participation to solve, including from the European Union.
Morocco has singled out Algeria for allegedly doing nothing to stop migrants from crossing into Morocco and even allowing them to set up camps on the border.
The Moroccan prime minister’s claims on Sunday that Algiers was using the migrant issue as propaganda to serve its cause of backing the Polisario Front movement, gave the drama a new dimension.
Morocco and Algeria for years have had tense relations over the Western Sahara territorial dispute, which remains unresolved despite years of efforts by the United Nations. It has been a barrier to meaningful cooperation within the strategic North African region.