RABAT, Morocco (AP) — Morocco's official human rights group has called for a new policy to integrate immigrants in the country with the help of European funding, amid persistent criticism over their treatment at the hands of security forces.
Responding to the recommendation, King Mohammed VI met with government officials on Tuesday and agreed a new policy is needed, noting that migration from of sub-Saharan Africans has quadrupled and there are now also Spanish and French fleeing Europe's economic crisis.
Morocco has long been a major transit point for immigrants from all over Africa seeking a better life in Europe, whether by crossing the Mediterranean Sea or trying to storm the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the Moroccan coast.
Rights groups have repeatedly criticized the treatment of migrants at the hands of security forces, describing beatings, arbitrary arrests, abuse and expulsions across desert borders without water. There are also many cases of Europeans fleeing unemployment in their home countries and finding skilled jobs in Morocco.
The government's National Council for Human Rights recommended in its report Monday that the country integrate some migrants into society, with jobs, schooling and a legal status. The council said European countries should "work actively for the success of this operation and mobilize the human and financial resources necessary to put in place a policy of integrating migrants."
Acknowledging there had been abuses, the council noted that Europe had pushed Morocco to stem the tide of illegal immigration, resulting in "a real success as witnessed by the figures for arrest and numerous declarations by satisfaction by different European countries."
In just the last month, Moroccan security forces have stepped up their campaign against those camped out in a forest outside the Melilla, where every few months hundreds of illegal migrants attempt to storm the fences surrounding the city.
In a meeting that included the prime minister, the king maintained that while there might be excesses, the use of violence was not systematic and security forces were instructed to respect immigrants' human rights.
He ordered his ministers to develop a new universal immigration policy that would in part seek to integrate some migrants.
Associated Press writer Paul Schemm contributed to this report.