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10 October 2005

thousands risk the Sahara road toward Hope

Immigrants near Bourfa
Young men continue their journey to Europe
(Reuters photo)

The Telegraph (UK)
Tuesday 11 October 2005

Abandoned to die
on the desert road of despair

By Isambard Wilkinson in Oujda

At night the 140-mile stretch of road that runs along the Algerian-Moroccan desert border between Bouarfa and Oujda has become a route of despair.

After dusk, shadowy figures hobbled on to the asphalt from the desert and resumed their nocturnal march north -- towards Europe.

They were almost all young men in their twenties from countries as varied as Mali, Cameroon, Congo, Gambia, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Senegal.

Despite their different origins, they had one experience in common: they had all been rounded up by Moroccan police and abandoned in the desert.

Exhausted, some sick and all suffering from hunger, they also had one common goal: to reach Oujda without being caught by the police.

There they can continue their journey to Europe and join the ranks of what Spain regards as an invading army of illegal migrants, or beat a retreat and head home via Algeria.

All feared that, if caught before Oujda, they would be returned to the desert where dozens of their fellow travellers are believed to have perished. All were survivors of a mass expulsion of immigrants heading towards Europe that Moroccan security forces began a week ago.

Outrage ensued when Médicins Sans Frontières [Doctors Without Borders, winner of 1999 Nobel Peace Prize] discovered that 1,000 migrants were wandering, starving in the desert.

It transpired yesterday that those found in the desert could be only a third of those herded from buses on the desolate border and told to walk back home through Algeria.

The crackdown was Morocco's response to the co-ordinated assaults on its border with Spain by thousands of young African men intent on entering the European country's two North African enclaves [Melilla and Ceuta].

Spain demanded that Morocco tighten security on its side of the border. Since then at least 14 migrants have been killed at the frontier itself. Some were shot by Moroccan police, others trampled to death.

Sheltering by the roadside Sanko Jambo, 23, from Sierra Leone, waved papers showing he was an official United Nations refugee with the right to stay in Morocco.

"I was sleeping in my house when the police came and told that I was to be repatriated and put on a bus to Oudja. On arrival there they handcuffed us then the buses turned towards the desert."

He described how 10 women in his group had died in the three-day trek to cross a mountain range.

Joseph Shaka, 20, from Nigeria, and part of the same group, said that he was working in Morocco's largest city, Casablanca, when the police came.

"I am black." he said. "That is why I am supposed to die."

Farther along the road some migrants fled into the night at the approach of strangers, others told of a purge of black Africans. "This is not fighting immigration but a hunt for blacks," said Bemba Martin, 26, from Congo. "They left us in the desert to die."

About 3,000 migrants have now gathered at a makeshift camp just across Morocco's border with Algeria. Many have retreated from the border with the Spanish enclaves; others have emerged from the desert where they were left to fend for themselves.

For those on the roads there was only one thing left to do: keep walking.

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2005.


Blogger dag said...

This is one of the better written pieces on the plight of the African migrants trying to storm Europe. Not stylistically, of course, but in tone it reminded me of Hemingway's journalism on the exodus, as it were, of the Christians out of Constantinople in 1923 or so. My facts might be a bit loose here, I'm relying on memory. The point is that writing can bring people to life in ways they sometimes don't even if one sees them face to face. Fiction makes more reality than fact. Print becomes more real than voice. Maybe it's because we don't have to dismiss the presence of the person to attain our understanding of the man as we would rather he be, creating him in our own minds as we will.

I've passed by countless and uncounted refugees, some terrible suffering, and I don't let it bother me. A later account in a magazine, well-written, and I'm in tears. It's certainly like that with my hated ex-wife, a lovely girl as I recall.

But there are those people who are only real when I see them, fine in the mind, but flowing and true in the flesh, pure and lovely and my joy in life. A book about my friends would just be silly.

Writings about the migrants brings them to life in my mind, and that's where they live in my life. That's as far as they'll wander for me. They ain't no friends of mine.

You, Bob, are someone I would very likely love to hang out with. Not tonight. I've put in some many long hours looking into the roots of Nazi Irrationalism and Left dhimm fascism and its attendant philobarbarism so I can try again tomorrow to save the world from the bad guys. I'm tuckered out.

Will get back to you soon.

This 'Intelligent Design" tack I think, if memory serves at this time of night, comes from St. Anslem. He bases it on Aristotelian analogy. Entirely boring book, Anslem's.

If I'm wrong about Anslem's arguement from design I'll get back to you with the right history of it.

Bob, I have to go home and sleep. Good night.


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