Tensions in Tangiers after migrants die in police raids

Tensions in Tangiers after migrants die in police raids
In the poor Tangiers suburb of Boukhalef, cramped apartment blocks house hundreds of sub-Saharan migrants dreaming of reaching Europe.

TANGIERS, Morocco - In the poor Tangiers suburb of Boukhalef, cramped apartment blocks house hundreds of sub-Saharan migrants dreaming of reaching Europe, but tragedy has turned it into a flashpoint for racial tensions in Morocco.

During a police raid earlier this month, a young Cameroonian called Cedric was chased onto the roof of one of the four-storey buildings and then fell to his death.

It was the second such death in two months, after a Senegalese man fell from his fourth-floor flat in October during another police raid.

The raids came despite a promise from the government of a new immigration policy to address concerns expressed by King Mohamed VI about the treatment of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa.

After the second incident, angry fellow migrants carried the Cameroonian's body through Boukhalef's streets protesting police "crimes" against their ranks.

Four days later, some 100 Moroccan residents staged a counter-demonstration under the gaze of police, chanting: "We are not racist, but we don't want blacks living here."

A former flatmate of Cedric, another Carmeroonian named Telly, said he and his friends were surprised and upset by the rising hostility.

"It's the first time this has happened. And we are really afraid now because we don't know what to expect," the 23-year-old said.

"We feel the police are trying to chase us out of Tangiers," a city that lies only a short boat trip from the southern tip of Spain.

Boubker el-Khamlichi of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights blasted the treatment of the migrants as "savage". He charged that it was a deliberate bid - with backing from Europe - to deter them from attempting the crossing.

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