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MSF in Morocco, 2010
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Morocco is a country of both transit and forced stay for many migrants and asylum seekers from sub-Saharan Africa. A growing number of people are finding themselves stuck in the country, unable either to continue their journeys to Europe or return home.
Migrants and asylum seekers mainly come from central and west Africa. Many have left poverty and unemployment; a large number have escaped conflict and violence and, in some cases, sexual violence. In the winter months, migrants tend to head to the cities of Rabat and Casablanca, or stay in and around the town of Oujda, on the Algerian border, before trying to reach Europe. Living conditions are extremely poor.
Arrest and deportation across the Algerian or Mauritanian borders is a frequent occurrence. Migrants are easy prey for trafficking and smuggling networks. They are also at risk of attack and robbery by criminals who act with total impunity, in part because of their victims’ irregular status. This precarious situation affects migrants’ mental health: 25 per cent of people who had medical consultations with MSF staff reported non-specific symptoms usually related to stress and anxiety.
Direct medical care
MSF began working with sub-Saharan migrants in Morocco in 2000, and has teams based in Rabat and Oujda. There are two components to MSF’s work: the provision of direct medical care and the facilitation of access to the Moroccan health system. In 2010, MSF staff carried out more than 2,500medical consultations and provided psychosocial help to migrants through 182 individual mental health consultations and 48 group sessions. Psychosocial support helps patients to cope with the stresses and trauma of their lives.MSF staff also accompanied migrants to health centres, helping them to access medical care at national health facilities.
In 2010, medical staff provided care to 145victims of sexual violence. MSF found that one in three women treated by MSF medical staff in Rabat and Casablanca between May 2009 and January 2010 admitted having been subjected to one or more sexual attacks in their country of origin, on their journey, or in Morocco. Staff gathered testimonies from 63 patients, 14 of whom were under 18. These testimonies, which contribute to MSF’s report Sexual Violence and Migration,illustrate the extreme vulnerability of these women throughout their journey.
MSF has worked in Morocco since 1997.