The ordeal of an African-American who was mistaken for a Sub-Saharan migrant in Morocco

In March, African-American citizen Timothy Hucks was driven to a police station in Rabat, where he was taken, with a group of Sub-Saharan migrants, to Beni Mellal in a bus. The man tells Yabiladi about the unusual experience that now prevents him from leaving the country.

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Timothy Hucks, an American citizen who was mistaken for a Sub-Saharan migrant in Rabat. / Ph. Twitter

On March 21, Timothy Hucks, was at the wrong time in the wrong place. The New Yorker, who was staying in Rabat at the time, was arrested while on his way to the store because of the «color of his skin».

On Friday, Hucks took to Twitter to share his ordeal in a long and detailed thread. Everything started at around 7:45 pm, when he left his house in Bab Chella to grab something from the shop. On his way, he was approached by a man who showered him with questions about who he was and where he was from.

«He asked for my passport and I said it was at home (…) then he said where is your home and I answered : Bab Chella, which was down the street from where we were», Hucks told Yabiladi.

When he realized that the two men, who later said that they were police officers, were not convinced with his answers, he showed them his American driving license. The latter was also not convincing to the two men, who told them that they would «take [him] far away from here».

An unexpected trip to Beni Mellal

«They did not care about any of that», the American man said, explaining that right after their questions they «handcuffed» him and «threw [him] in a wagon». Not really aware of what was happening, Hucks found himself with a group of Sub-Saharan migrants who were, just like him, thrown into that police van.

With no access to a phone and only about $10 in his pocket, Hucks was driven to a nearby police station. «They uncuffed me and put me in the lobby with 30 to 40 other people — teens to men — all black», he tweeted. Hours later, the American citizen was summoned, alongside the Sub-Saharan migrants that were in the same lobby, to a room, where he was asked the same questions again.

«One of the men asked if I spoke Arabic. I said no. He told me I did. Another looked at me directly and simply said 'terrorist'. I said, 'No, I’m not'. He said, 'Boko Haram'».

Timothy Hucks

The young man did not know what was awaiting him. He was brought outside, then asked to board a bus that drove him alongside the group of migrants out of the city. Hours later, Hucks was dropped in Beni Mellal, a city in the country’s interior- almost three hours away from Rabat.

Unexpectedly, he was released, which added to the confusion. «They did not tell me why they arrested me and did not put me in jail», he argued.

Stuck in Morocco because of a case of mistaken identity

With the money he had in his pocket, Hucks returned to Rabat. Confused, shocked and traumatized by what happened, he decided to keep a low profile and not leave his place.

«It was a situation of racial profiling because what really mattered to them was how I look», he told Yabiladi. «I did not want any contact with the authorities that was not necessary (…) So, I stayed home until I was going to leave the country definitively», he said.

Hucks did not know what to do after his «arrest» and felt stuck. «Everybody said that I should call the embassy», he recalled. «I called them and they said there is a list of lawyers that I should call», he said. However, that was not really helpful, as Hucks did not know what to do next. «I talked to an activist organization, who said they would help me but they never contacted me again (...) At some point, it was clear that they weren't going to do anything, either, so I gave up», he regretted.

But what happened is that, Hucks overstayed his visa and was prevented from leaving the country when he tried to. And there, he was faced with another problem. Due to the fact he refused to live his place after the incident, Hucks ended up «overstaying by a month» in Morocco.

«Now, they will not let me leave», he complained. When trying to solve the matter, Hucks went to the immigration office in Tangier, which asked him to file his request in Rabat instead. «The first time they refused to talk to me and I was told to wait until September 10th», he explained.

«No one has really given me any help on how to leave the country», he argued, adding that after visiting the immigration office in Rabat three times he still doesn’t know how to go back to New York.

«I understand that it is a problem that I overstayed but I also understand that it is mostly their fault. I would like to leave the country and they are locking me here», he concluded.

From Rabat, to Beni Mellal and then Tangier, Timothy Hucks said after this long and frustrating situation he contacted a lawyer in the United States to find his way out of Morocco, where he was mistaken for a Sub-Saharan migrant.

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