Syrian Refugees: Morocco Failed to Meet its International Obligations to Protect Refugees

APS - 08 May 2017

WASHINGTON - U.S. non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) declared that Morocco failed to meet its international obligations, when it expelled from its territory last April about fifty Syrian refugees.

"Expelling asylum-seekers from its territory (...) without giving them the possibility to apply for refugee status constitutes a violation of Morocco's international obligations," a statement released by HRW said.

"Such decisions may also be in violation of Article 29 of Moroccan law 02-03 on entry by foreigners and their presence in the Kingdom of Morocco. The article also prohibits deportation of pregnant women," the Washington-based NGO said.

Quoting the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Morocco, HRW indicates that the two Syrian refugee groups numbered 55 people, including 20 women and 22 children.

HRW indicates that two among the expelled women are several months pregnant. In fact, one of the women gave birth on April 23 within the border area, located near the Moroccan town of Figuig.

Witness reports made by refugees and collected by HRW stood in opposition to the grave accusations leveled by the Moroccan authorities blaming Algeria for the expulsion of Syrian nationals to Morocco.

The Syrian nationals attempted to enter Moroccan territory of their own volition and without particular constraint, using help from local populations, according to the same witness reports.

A woman who was part of one of the groups of asylum-seekers related for HRW the facts as they occurred, stressing that "her group had left Algeria around April 17, with guidance from local people.

However, the next day, Moroccan security forces intercepted them and pushed them back toward Algeria."
"We were a group of 14 people, mostly women and children and only one man. We traveled to Algeria from Syria through Libya and Sudan. We crossed the Moroccan border with the help of local people, but Moroccan border guards stopped us and made us spend the night. The next day, they pushed us back toward Algeria," she told HRW.

Algeria has reacted strongly to the grave accusations leveled by the Moroccan authorities blaming it for an alleged attempt by Syrian nationals to enter Moroccan territory from Algeria.

The ministry of foreign affairs had categorically rejected such "deceitful" and "totally unfounded allegations", recalling that Algeria has always abstained out of spirit of responsibility to give political scope and media coverage to "premeditated" and "repetitive" acts of that nature by Morocco, which exploits "human drama for hostile propaganda ends."