Friday, April 20, 2012

Growing concern over precarious state of sub-Saharan migrants

A temporary shelter set up by migrants recently expelled from Morocco, PIX: MSF
Growing concerns over the precarious state of migrants in sub-Saharan Africa have been raised once again by the multinational network against violation of migrants’ rights, Justice Without Borders for Migrants/Justice sans frontiers pour les migrants et migrantes (JWBM/JSFM).

This followed recent mass-expulsion of migrants from Mauritania to Senegal and Mali, and from Morocco to Algeria, coupled with recent massive displacement fueled by the Tuareg rebellion in northern Mali.

As human rights violations increases during refoulement and expulsion of African migrants, so is the level of impunity that encourages this situation characterized by widespread and systematic abuses, JWBM said in Banjul on April 15, 2012.

The multinational network hosted a discussion on the “shaky” situation of migrants in the region, in partnership with African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies, ACDHRS, and the Sub-committee on Migrants Rights, as a side-event at the April 14-16 Human Rights NGOs Forum in Gambia.

The most alarming thing is the condition in which these people (Malians and resident migrants) have been displaced. It comes with a lot of violations and vandalism from Kidal to Gao, noted Brahima Koni, President of Inter-African Union of Human Rights and Board Member of ACDHRS.

The situation was aggravated by two factors, he explains: “The capture of the town of Gao in northern Mali and the announcement of the introduction of Shariah law by the national movement for the liberation of the Azawad region, the MNLA.”

An estimated 90, 000 Malians and residents have been displaced as a result, and some 200, 000 forced to flee to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger, most of whom find themselves in shaky conditions.

Since 2006, Mauritian authorities have taken a much more radical approach (policy) to migration with the support of the Spanish government, making migration much more tedious.

“The recent events in Mauritania involving the deportation of hundreds of migrants to the borders of Mali and Senegal is a case for concern,” says human rights lawyer and JWBM member, Youssouf NIANE, who recalled that this is “not the first time the Mauritanian government is indicted of “illegal” mass deportation of migrants.”

Majority of those affected were living in the town of Nouadhibou, among them children, women, and the elderly, Mr. NIANE said. “Even Mauritanians with colour were affected. These arrests were conducted arbitrarily, as some of the migrants were held in overcrowded classrooms,” he said.

The JWBM described the arrests and mass deportations as “illegal” and a violation of the ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement of People, Goods and Services.

Mauritania withdrew its membership of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on December 26, 1999, however, JWBM said the regional protocol on free movement remain binding on the country.

The country is also a member of the African Union and other world bodies that have legal instruments protecting human and peoples’ rights.

Mr. NIANE added that “Even after Mauritania withdrew from ECOWAS, it still commits herself to the legal instruments of the sub-regional body, and national laws in the country does not allow for mass expulsion of migrants from the country.”

Reiterating earlier comments, the legal advisor of the Malian Association of Expelled People, AME, Mamadou Konate said in 2010, his organisation led a joint inquiry-mission to the borders of Mali and Mauritania.

“The report on our findings indicted both countries, Mauritania for the massive deportation of migrants, and Mali for leaving the migrants stranded on its soil,” notes Mr. Konate, who is also a JWBM member.

“These massive deportations violate the provisions of the (Banjul) African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, ACHPR, and I am urging the Mauritanian government to stop this illegal act,” he said.

Scores of sub-Saharan migrants have been killed while attempting to reach Moroccan towns of Ceuta and Melina following mass deportations to the desert borders of Algeria and Mali.

Their “rickety” boats are sometimes drowned by sea patrol security forces of Morocco and Spain, argues Stephane Julinet, a Moroccan human rights.

“The raids are made on a daily basis in cities like Rabat, with massive arrests of sub-Saharan migrants on the streets and in their apartments. They are detained in various police stations and transported by night to the Algerian desert border and left stranded,” he said.

Mr. Juliet, who is also a member of the justice without borders for migrants (JWBM),   notes that “The testimonies we have include cases of reported rape and theft committed against asylum seekers, among them, pregnant women and children, while these categories are protected by Moroccan law.”

He argued that all these deportations are single-handedly ordered by Morocco’s Chief Prosecutor.

Morocco is the only African country that is not a member of the African Union, AU, since leaving the pan-African body’s predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity, OAU in 1984. However, like Mauritania, Morocco has committed herself to binding international laws guaranteeing human and peoples’ rights.

Police operations using bulldozers and helicopters between August 19 and September 10 in cities across Morocco, including Oujda, Al-Hoceima, Nador, Tangiers, Rabat, Casablanca, and Fez left about 700 migrants arrested in 2010.

An operation, the international medical humanitarian organization, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) expressed deep concerns over the deterioration of the medical and humanitarian situation of the migrants.

Speaking earlier, the Executive Director of the African Center for Democracy and Human Rights, ACDHRS, Mrs. Hannah Foster, described the discussions as pertinent, considering the many disturbing facts about migration in sub-Saharan Africa.         

Written by Modou S. Joof


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