RABAT, Morocco (AP) — Moroccan security forces have arrested hundreds of people in a sweep through a mountainous area where migrants had been living near the Spanish coastal enclave of Melilla, activists said Wednesday.
The Moroccan Association for Human Rights said that 1,200 migrants had been detained and most were bussed to remote parts of the country in the south in an apparent effort to prevent them from trying cross into the Spanish enclave.
The sweep through Mount Gourougou started in the early hours of the morning Tuesday, after the Interior Ministry announced the camps would be dismantled as part of a new immigration policy.
Tens of thousands of sub-Saharan Africans journey to Morocco hoping to climb the fences around two Spanish enclaves and enter Europe.
Even as the sweep began Tuesday, several hundred migrants made one last attempt on the fences surrounding Melilla. Most were repulsed but Spanish authorities said 35 made it across.
Spain says 2,000 migrants crossed into the enclaves in roughly 65 storming attempts last year.
Morocco is caught in a bind with its northern neighbors demanding it halt the flow of immigrants, while at the same time criticizing any harsh tactics as violations of human rights.
Morocco has a new immigration policy aimed at allowing migrants to live and work in the country and over the last year granted residency to 18,000 migrants, 65 percent of applicants, it announced Monday.
At the same time, however, it vowed to dismantle the camps around the enclaves.
Riot police swept through the mountain, destroyed the camps and sent the migrants to a nearby seaside resort where they were put on buses and sent to remote Moroccan towns. Women and children were allowed to stay in the empty resort.
In the past, migrants were just sent to major cities like Rabat or Casablanca.