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MSF in Morocco, 2011
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Sub-Saharan migrants trying to enter Europe often get stuck in Morocco, in precarious conditions. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) helps migrants to access health services.
Restrictive EU migration and asylum policies, including increased and more rigorous controls at the EU’s external borders, are having serious consequences on the physical and mental health of migrants and asylum seekers. According to the Ministry of the Interior, there are between 10,000 and 20,000 irregular migrants in Morocco. Police raids in areas where migrants live are frequent, as are deportations to the desert border area between Algeria and Morocco, where temperatures are extreme and living conditions are particularly hard.
Women, children and unaccompanied minors are direct victims of smuggling networks, and most are victims of human trafficking: they are particularly vulnerable to kidnapping, rape, sexual exploitation and violence. MSF works in the northern towns of Oujda and Nador, which are close to the border, and in the Moroccan capital Rabat, where many migrants tend to gather. In 2011, nearly half of those who sought medical care from MSF had symptoms relating to poor living and hygiene conditions, such as skin and respiratory infections and digestive problems.
Medical and mental health services in Oujda and Nador
Although local health authorities have officially set up support systems for women and children who have been victims of violence, the systems lack funding and staff. In Nador, close to the Spanish enclave of Melilla, many people in need of medical care are afraid even to visit health facilities for fear of being deported.
In January, MSF opened a center in Oujda, providing emergency medical assistance, and medical and mental healthcare to migrant women. Staff carried out 1,110 outpatient medical consultations and responded to 135 medical emergencies. More than 40 victims of sexual violence received specialised medical and mental health support.
Unaccompanied minors do not receive special attention from the authorities. MSF staff have developed a register of young, unaccompanied migrants, and offer them mental healthcare and social support. A Moroccan association, Fondation Orient Occident, has begun conducting psychosocial activities with women and under-18s.
In total, MSF staff provided psychosocial support to more than 1,000 migrants, holding a total of 290 individual mental health consultations and 115 group sessions in Oujda and Nador. As well as carrying out medical activities, MSF distributed approximately 3,900 washing kits, 3,750 blankets, 2,250 plastic sheets, 1,130 winter kits and 1,120 coats to migrants in need. Teams also ensured access to safe water for people living in forests on the outskirts of Oujda and Nador.
Caring for victims of sexual violence in Rabat
MSF opened a new programme in Rabat for migrant women who have been subjected to sexual violence. The team worked in close collaboration with the Ministry of Health and non-governmental organizations to coordinate a response to the needs of victims of sexual violence, offering medical and mental health services and facilitating patients’ referral to social and legal services.
The program moved to a new shared center, in partnership with Moroccan organisation Oum El Banine, where staff assisted 175 victims of sexual violence and provided antenatal care to 188 women who fell pregnant after being raped. A total of 106 mental health consultations were held, including the provision of psychosocial support to 70 victims of sexual violence.
MSF staff also work as intermediaries between patients and health staff in Moroccan health centers and hospitals, and helped 1,400 migrants in this way.
At the end of 2011, MSF had 32 staff in Morocco. MSF has been working in the country since 1997.