Morocco grants UN refugee agency access to subSaharan African migrants

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) last month sent a three-member team to Morocco to interview dozens of sub-Saharan Africans with agency documentation reportedly being held in various parts of the country after having been picked up by the authorities in a crackdown on irregular migration. At the time, UNHCR called on the Rabat Government not to forcibly return them to a country where they might face persecution.The UNHCR team spent three days last week interviewing more than 40 such migrants, on a list of 85 people of concern to the agency, in a civilian location near Guelmin camp in southern Morocco. Their claims for refugee status are currently being assessed, spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told a news briefing in Geneva today.“Later this week, UNHCR hopes to get access to Nador camp near the Spanish enclave of Melilla to interview other individuals on the list,” she said. “In cooperation with the Moroccan authorities, we are trying to identify the location of the remaining persons of concern.”Meanwhile, the agency is continuing to receive asylum requests in Rabat. “We are reviewing our internal asylum procedures so as to more rapidly and transparently identify asylum seekers with valid claims,” Ms. Pagonis said. “We hope to clear our backlog of 1,700 pending cases in the coming weeks.’Since 2000, a total of 265 people in Morocco have been recognized as refugees. read more

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