Hirak : Are young people fleeing persecution in Al Hoceima by crossing the Mediterranean ?

The consequences of the social unrest in Al Hoceima have been emerging lately. Reportedly, and according to the Guardian, Moroccan young people in the Rif region are «fueling exodus to Europe» by crossing the Mediterranean to flee persecution. The same analysis was made by «Caminando Fronteras», a Spanish NGO that supports migrants.

Are young Riffians fleeing persecution in Al Hoceima by crossing the Mediterranean ? /Ph.
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While Morocco is commemorating the death of Mohcine Fikri, a fishmonger who was crushed by a trushtruck on the 29th of October 2016 trying to retrieve his confiscated fish, the Guardian has released an article linking the Hirak protest movement to the European migration crisis. Published on Wednesday, the British online newspaper stressed on the situation in the Rif region stating that it «fuels exodus to Europe».

Frustrated by unemployment and the security approach adopted by the authorities in the city of Al Hoceima, some Riffians have chosen to head North. According to the same source, the number of people trying to reach Europe through Morocco has dramatically increased. «In August, nearly 600 people were rescued off the coast of Tarifa in one day», said the Guardian.

Based on the data provided by Frontex, known also as the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, the Guardian points out that nearly 13,600 migrants crossed into Spain using the strait of Gibraltar route during the first eight months of 2017.

Moroccan migrants in Tarifa and Algeciras

Alongside numbers, the Guardian had the chance to meet a couple of Moroccan migrants on the Spanish territory. It interviewed «refugees in the Spanish cities of Algeciras and Tarifa who had fled persecution in Hoceima earlier in the summer».

Two brothers aged 28 and 19 accompanied by two of their cousins, both 21, escaped the unrest in Al Hoceima in August using a jetski. The four young people «arrived from Plage Souani, having travelled roughly 110 miles (180km) across the sea», said the British newspaper.

«It was four of us on a jetski. It took us six hours to come from Hoceima to Motril (a town and municipality on the Mediterranean coast) … The Moroccan riot police beat us up during the protests. I have marks on my hand. [And] we left for work. There is no job in Rif.»

Meanwhile, Naoufal el-Moutaouakil an Al Hoceima native whose brother was arrested during the protests told the Guardian that young Riffians «leave their country because they have no future in Morocco».

Caminando Fronteras and the situation in the Rif

The same hypothesis brought by the Guardian has been supported by Cadena ser, a Spanish radio station. In an article published on Tuesday, 31st of October, Cadena ser shed light on migrants trying to reach Europe via the straits of Jibraltar.

According to the radio station, in the last weeks the majority of migrants illegally crossing the Mediterranean are «minors coming from the north of Morocco». This was confirmed by «Caminando Fronteras» (Walking Borders), an NGO that supports migrants in the region.

According to Helena Maleno, the spokesperson of the association «this change may be due to the crisis in the north of the country», referring to the Rif region and Hirak protest movement.

Moreover, Cadena ser argued insisting that the political situation in Al Hoceima might be behind the migration influx in Europe and Spain in particular. «Moroccan migrants on the Spanish coasts are out-numbering Sub-Saharans», said the same source quoting Maleno who believes that the situation remains worrying.

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