Migrants rebuild Casablanca camp


After two sleepless days and nights begging on the streets of Casablanca, Guinea teenager Ismail could afford to rebuild his home in a temporary camp opposite the city’s main bus terminal.

The 18-year-old was among a thousand migrants whose tents and belongings were destroyed by a fire late on Saturday, the third at the camp since July 2017. It is unclear how the fire started.

On Monday, Ismail and his camp neighbours began clearing debris, sawing and nailing wooden frames to rebuild the area which last week housed 300 plastic tents.
“I spent Saturday and Sunday night in the street unable to sleep after the fire,” said Ismail, who declined to give his full name because he did not want his family to know about his suffering.

Ismail is one of some 6,000 Africans moved by the Moroccan government from Tangier and a nearby forest to the country’s south to stop them crossing to Spain.

Officials described the moves as a crackdown on illegal trafficking networks. Rights groups call it forced displacement.

Morocco to Spain has become the gateway to Europe for many African migrants after Italy closed its doors to asylum-seekers entering via Libya.

Ismail began heading north again. He lives in Casablanca, a central coastal city and major transport hub, but wants to go north.
“I am planning to stay in Casablanca until I get enough money to go to the north where I can attempt another crossing of the fence of one of the Spanish cities,” he said referring to Ceuta and Melilla, two Spanish enclaves.

More than 6,000 migrants made it to Melilla and Spain’s nearby territory Ceuta so far this year, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR.

Others pay smugglers to get them across the 14 km of sea to Spain.

Until funds are raised, a temporary home in Casablanca needs to be rebuilt.

James is 26 and arrived in Morocco from Sierra Leone nine months ago after crossing from Algeria. Holding a hammer and nails, he was waiting for a “big brother” to tell him where to build.

The “big brothers” are camp elders representing different sub-Saharan communities in the camp.
“In fall and winter we need more plastic for the roof and more blankets to feel warm. I hope I will find some before it gets colder,” he said.