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Critics: Morocco’s abuse of migrants persists

Updated Monday, Feb. 10, 2014 | 6:54 a.m.

RABAT, Morocco (AP) — Morocco is abusing sub-Saharan migrants, especially those trying to force their way into the Spanish enclaves on its coast, despite announcing a more humanitarian immigration policy last year, Human Rights Watch said Monday.

Migrants seeking to enter the Spanish enclave of Melilla on Morocco's coast told the rights group they were tied up and beaten by both Moroccan forces.

"We are not asking Morocco to adopt any new initiatives. It's just a matter of respecting the agreements they have already made," said Eric Goldstein, deputy director of the group's North Africa division.

Morocco, a major transit point for immigrants with an estimated 25,000 sub-Saharans living there illegally, announced a new immigration policy in September involving greater respect for human rights.

Europe has encouraged Morocco to do more to stop the migrants.

The bodies of seven migrants were recovered last week off the coast of the Spanish enclave of Ceuta after hundreds tried to force their way in. Witnesses said Spanish forces used rubber bullets.

"We are shocked by this tragedy, and we hope there will be an investigation into the security measures that witnesses said included the use of rubber bullets," said Katya Salmi, the report's main researcher.

The rights group said the Moroccan policy of expelling migrants to Algeria appears to have ceased. Instead many are bused to other Moroccan cities and left there.

An aid organization confirmed that since December sub-Saharan migrants have been dumped on a daily basis around the capital, and that on Monday 60 were left in one neighborhood, in addition to another 42 on Friday, including some of the wounded from the Ceuta clash.

"We are in a situation of permanent crisis," a representative of the organization said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.