Migrants: ‘Europe or bust’

TANGIERS, Morocco -- For scores of African migrants, it’s a case of “Europe or bust”, no matter what Moroccan authorities throw at them in the way of detentions and being bussed hundreds of kilometres away.

“I’ll come back here even if they send me back 10 times!” insisted Achille, a 28-year-old from Cameroon determined to reach Spain across the sea from the city of Tangiers in northern Morocco.

In late September, together with his wife and two-year-old child, Achille was about to board an inflatable boat bound for Spain when they were caught in a police raid.

After four days detained in the basement of a Tangiers police station, the family was transported with other migrants by bus to Tiznit, 800 kilometres (about 500 miles) to the south.

Achille, who first made his way to Morocco in 2015 after a long and arduous journey, had previously been turned back to Casablanca.

The same has happened to thousands of migrants since Moroccan authorities last summer turned the screws and launched a relocation campaign to distance them from the north of the country or in some cases to fly them home.

The authorities, listing 54,000 foiled attempts to cross to Europe between January and end of August, say the north is where human trafficking networks operate.

Despite alleged rights violations in the campaign being waged by Moroccan authorities, hundreds of migrants just keep returning to Tangiers unless they are repatriated.

“Tangiers is my town, I will only leave it for Spain,” said Achille, circled by a dozen fellow Cameroonians squatting in an out-of-the-way lot dotted with trees, some of them killing time laying down on mattresses, others watching out for police.

“We’re living like animals here,” said 35-year-old Wilfred. “These people around me are like my brothers. Today they’re Africans, tomorrow they’ll be Europeans.”