Despite indications that Morocco’s disputed Western Sahara region is enjoying new flows of foreign investment, Rabat’s best kept secret – that boats filled with Moroccans leave the coastline on a daily basis – still remains a trend.
At least five Moroccans drowned when their boat sank off Western Sahara, a rights group said on July 25th, as crossing attempts by migrants hoping to reach Europe multiply from the area. The news followed authorities reporting just a few days earlier on Saturday 22nd six migrants drowned off northern Morocco trying to reach Spain.
Mohamed Zendour, of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH), told AFP a boat went down near Dakhla, in the disputed Western Sahara, on July 24th, resulting in the latest fatalities.
“The vessel, which carried about 60 migrants, capsized not far from the coast due to waves,” Zendour said, adding the death toll could rise.
There was no immediate comment from Moroccan authorities on the incident although the country’s foreign minister on Sunday July 23rd attended a meeting in Rome on the issue of African migrants in Morocco leaving the kingdom for the EU. In a speech, Nasser Bourita stressed that Morocco has developed “good practices in the integration of migrants.”
Bourita said that Morocco integrated migrants through two regularisation operations, as well as the establishment of responsible and humane border management.
In January of last year, Bourita said that migration is natural, arguing that nothing will stop a “natural phenomenon” that has always existed and “will continue to do so” although great efforts by the government specifically try and stop Moroccans leaving on boats as this is a considerable embarrassment to the government in its bid to present Morocco to the rest of the world as a model state.
Morocco in northwest Africa is a transit country for many migrants trying to get to Europe via Spain’s mainland or its Canary Islands in the Atlantic.
The Canaries are only about 150 kilometres (93 miles) off southern Morocco.
The Spanish islands have long been a draw for migrants seeking a better life in Europe, with many boats setting off from the coastline of Morocco, Mauritania and Senegal – with boats filled with both Moroccans and Africans.
Atlantic crossings began surging in late 2019 after increased patrols along Europe’s southern coast dramatically reduced Mediterranean crossings.
Between July 10 and 17, the Moroccan navy said it rescued nearly 900 migrants, most of them from sub-Saharan African countries. One such boat tragedy however did involve Moroccans on June 22nd where 39 Moroccans perished off the shores of the Canary Islands.
Spain’s coastguard on July 25th said it had rescued a migrant boat off the Canary Islands, pulling 84 people to safety but also finding the body of a man who had died en route.