Enigma Boat: Moroccan families seek answers over missing migrants

By Fatima Zohra Bouaziz

Beni Mellal, Morocco, Dec 17 (EFE).- Aziza Chenadri, Najat el Wataoui and Naima Fekkak hold onto their children’s clothes in the hope that one day they will return home after they disappeared on March 27 after leaving in a boat for the Canary Islands on the treacherous West African migrant route.

Families of people who disappeared in unknown circumstances after leaving Morocco have rallied together in an unprecedented movement under an organization called the Enigma Boat and are calling for an investigation into the incident.

At least 55 Moroccans aged between 16 and 45 were traveling in an inflatable boat when it disappeared. So far, 14 bodies have been found and 41 remain missing.

The travelers were nearly all from Beni Mellal, a city in the impoverished center of the country dubbed the “triangle of death” which connects three cities where many Moroccans who die at sea hoping to reach Europe hail from.

The Walking Borders NGO, which tracks boats leaving for the Canary Islands, received an alert on April 6 after the relatives, living in Spain, of a disappeared man raised the alarm.

“The relatives called late and the tragedy could not be avoided. He called us from Valencia and we notified the Civil Guard,” Helena Maleno, spokesperson for the NGO, tells EFE.


Several women gather around a platter of couscous in the home of Rahma Chegraoui, the grandmother of one of the disappeared, as they recall the last time they saw their loved ones while gripping photos of them.

The last time Aziza spoke to her son, Tarik Rahimi (27), was on the afternoon of March 27 when she told him she was going out that night and that she would turn off her cell phone.

“His dream was to go to Spain, work there to buy a house. I hope he’s alive because I can’t live like this. I have cleaned houses since he was two years old, when his father died, to support him,” she adds.

Naima says that the last information she had about her son, Said Oufkir (33), was through one of the seven traffickers who chartered the boat and who received 40,000 dirhams ($10,890) from each migrant.

“Two days after the boat left, H.A. (the trafficker) called my daughter to tell her that her brother had arrived safely in the Canary Islands. Days went by and we heard nothing from him. When several corpses appeared, our world fell apart,” she continues.

“Since then we have lived in hell,” the women say.

“I see my son Fahid everywhere. He had a motorcycle and now, when someone passes by on a motorcycle near my house, I look out to see if it’s him,” says Najat, mother of Fahid Mowaden (34), fighting back the tears.

The women connect with other mothers via video link to share theories about what might have happened to their children.

One theory is that they were kidnapped in the Canary Islands or Western Sahara, from where they left. Their phones, they say, keep ringing.

“As long as we’re still alive, we’re going to keep going until our children show up, dead or alive,” says Naima.

Related Articles

Back to top button