By Maria Traspaderne and Mohamed Siali
Mount Gurugu, Morocco, Oct 17 (EFE).- Each night, Ali tries to find some peace and quiet before going to sleep next to his candy stand in the Moroccan town of Mount Gurugu, which has become a common staging point for migrants looking to cross into Spain’s North African territory of Melilla.
That peace and quiet is elusive now that preemptive police raids have returned to the zone.
“You don’t know what it’s like,” Ali, whose name has been changed for security reasons, tells Efe.
Dozens of mainly sub-Saharan migrants have gathered at Mount Gurugu once again, prompting fears that a fresh border breach could be looming.
Four months ago, on June 24, at least 23 people were killed when a mass border breach ended in clashes with security officials.
Ali witnessed several police raids in Mount Gurugu, but all were before June. Survivors of the largest and most violent attempt were later transferred by the authorities to distant cities.
Today, security forces and even migrants trying to reach Europe have told Efe that they are preparing for another attempt to cross into Melilla amid poor living conditions.
Over the past five days, Ali explains that a raid broke out Saturday night into Sunday as migrants “began to arrive” in Mount Gurugu.
“Seventeen people were arrested. There were many. They were discovered by the dogs, which began to bark,” the 40-year-old says.
“They have beaten police officers with the knives and sticks they had,” adds Ali, who was also a witness to a violent raid on June 24 that left 116 Moroccan officers injured amid clashes with some 500 migrants. Ali did not reveal the number of those sub-Saharan migrants who had sustained wounds.
Abdel Kader Tawil, Ali’s colleague, says he has seen many sub-Saharans pass by the area.
“They hide during the day and come out at night to find something to eat,” he points out.
It is not an easy task to find them. They usually hide in the cliffs of this 1,000-meter-high mountain by the sea, he says.
A primary school teacher who prefers not to reveal his name tells Efe that “helicopters were heard all night.”
“The authorities tell us that we have to be careful with them, but they live peacefully. In Gurugu, there are cows and cattle, and they don’t touch anything. They say they are dangerous, but it’s not true,” he adds.
Some 200 people were arrested between Saturday and Sunday in Nador, the Moroccan province bordering Melilla, according to security forces.
The authorities fear that up to 5,000 people could gather for a new attempt, and neither tear gas, batons, nor distance will make them give up what pushed them to leave their home. EFE