Preface: Remarks on writing the Western Med Regional Analysis

Writing these reports on developments on the Western Mediterranean migration route via Morocco is a complex task and we would like to share some reflections on the process before going into the content.

There is little media coverage on the situation of people on the move via Morocco; not least because the Moroccan kingdom controls press activity. It takes a dim view of investigations into its own shortcomings or reports of conflict. Independent investigators, journalists, human rights reporters and activists are observed and we know of several cases where people have been asked to leave the country and had their material confiscated.

The Hirak movement began in the Rif region in 2016. It demanded basic social rights such as education, health care and work opportunities. It resulted in the arrest of at least 17 independent journalists and 400 activists. Many people are still imprisoned.[1] The Freedom House Index labels Morocco as ‘partly free’, and mentions the repression of non-governmental actors, such as the AMDH (the Moroccan Human Rights Association) and the ban on Amnesty International from conducting research in Morocco.[2]

The political context is one reason why the struggles of travellers in the Western Med are so invisible. This is why Alarm Phone tries to cover the main developments and incidents in the Western Med and does not focus only on the sea crossings.

Much of the information that we report comes directly from the Alarm Phone activists who are themselves in transit in Morocco. These insider perspectives are interwoven with information from other activist groups and contacts, social media content, press releases and newspaper articles. In creating the content of this report, we are aware of some issues that we want to bring to the fore here:

We want to report on the repression and the precarity of the people in transit without victimising the travellers or hiding their agency. We want to highlight the desperation of this cycle of repression without forgetting empowering moments of resistance and victories, Boza-moments.

In general in border regime discussions it is important not to portray Morocco as the play thing of the west, as a state without agency, instrumentalised within the European border regime. This would be to underestimate the country. Nor would it be correct to ascribe the sole responsibility for the abuse on the Western transit route to the Hashemite kingdom. This would ignore the culpability and responsibility of the European Union.

We do not want to reproduce the division between sub saharan travellers and harragas — people from the Maghreb communities — but the harragas’ struggles are much more hidden and tricky to report on, as Moroccan nationals face different kinds of state repression than sub saharan travellers. Even though this report focuses on the sub saharan travellers, we are aware that nearly half of the sea crossings in the Western Mediterranean are conducted by Moroccan nationals.

We try to break down our analysis’ of tendencies and dynamics to specific incidents. We are aware that reporting on single incidents of the same nature might seem repetitive, but that way we also highlight the consistent character of structural repression.

We do not want to reproduce nationalist ideas and divisions in terms of citizenship, but we sometimes decided to refer to nationalities in our reports in order to facilitate the identification of the people concerned.

Lastly, we want to make clear that these analyses are aimed at state officials and institutions (to shake their complacency), activists (to share information and network) and the travelling communities (to inform and empower). At the same time they also serve as a long-term archive of happenings along the Western Mediterranean route. Writing for diverse target groups at once is a challenge, but in being transparent about what information is shared in which way and with whom, there is also an interesting potential. […]

The content of the following report

1. Crossings and AP experiences
2. News from the regions
     2.1 Tangier and the Strait of Gibraltar
     2.2 Nador and the forests
     2.3 The Western Saharan route
     2.4 The enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla
     2.5 Oujda and the Moroccan-Algerian border
3. Externalisation of border control: political cooperation
4. Shipwrecks and missing people

Alarmphone | 12.11.2019

The hidden ‘battlefield’ – struggles for freedom of movement in Morocco