Posted: 10/12/2005 7:19:44 AM EDT
Morocco deports more migrants despite UN criticism By Lamine Ghanmi
RABAT (Reuters) - Morocco, under pressure to staunch an inrush of immigrants into Spain, flew 139 illegal migrants back to Mali on Wednesday and vowed to continue with the mass deportations despite sharp criticism from the United Nations.
Moroccan officials added that Rabat expects to reach a new agreement with Spain to bolster its struggle against illegal immigration, which has taken on new urgency in recent weeks since hundreds of migrants stormed the Spanish North African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.
"More Malian migrant groups will be flown on four similar flights later today and on Thursday from Oujda to bring the total number of Malians to be deported to 606," said a senior government official, who declined to be named.
Oujda lies 540 km (340 miles) east of Rabat and is an entry point for illegal migrants from Algeria.
The Moroccan government, which deported 549 Senegalese migrants to Dakar on Monday and Tuesday, said it would send home more illegal migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa, despite the protests of a United Nations investigator.
"The Moroccan state is taking its responsibility in the fight against illegal migration and is determined to protect its borders," junior foreign minister Taieb Fassi Fihri said.
Fihri told reporters late on Tuesday that Morocco was fighting "the complex regional problem of immigration."
"Morocco alone cannot tackle immigration. Migrants are pushed from their countries by poverty, drought and other woes to Europe," Interior Minister Mustapaha Sahel said at the briefing, also attended by top security officials.
The deportations drew sharp criticism from the United Nations' special investigator on human rights, Jorge Bustamante, who urged Morocco to halt the flights, saying they were in breach of international conventions.
"Collective deportations in these conditions endanger the right to life," he said in a statement issued in Geneva. "I urge the Moroccan government to cease collective deportations as a matter of urgency."
Bustamante called on the governments of Spain and Morocco to cooperate in a "prompt, transparent and independent investigation" into the deaths of at least 11 migrants from bullet wounds near the Spanish enclaves, possibly at the hands of security forces.
Sahel and Fihri complained Rabat was getting "not one euro or a single dollar" from Europe for their country's efforts.
"The illegal immigration involves a cascade of factors and countries involved in the movement of illegal migrants. Why do they single out Morocco?" Sahel asked, urging European pressure on Algeria to stop migrants reaching neighboring Morocco.
He said: "Morocco will continue to deport illegal migrants caught in its territory by flying them home or escorting them to land border entries from where they crossed illegally."
Hundreds of African migrants have in recent weeks stormed Ceuta and Melilla, prompting Madrid and Rabat to deploy more troops to the frontier. Spain has deported 70 of the illegal migrants back to Morocco, a move denounced by human rights groups.
Fihri said Rabat and Madrid were considering a new immigration accord. "We accepted the 70 migrants back after King Juan Carlos phoned King Mohammed three times seeking Morocco's help," he added.
WTF does the UN have to say bout any countries illegal immigrants.
Can't wait to drill me a blue helmet.