Mental health of migrants in Morocco slips through the gaps

By Mohamed Siali and Maria Traspaderne

Rabat, Dec 3 (EFE).- Abdala is still haunted by images of his father drowning when he was just 13 years old. Omer has suicidal thoughts having traveled thousands of kilometers to reach Europe and failing to find a way to reach Spain.

Migrants in Morocco, a country that for many is just a stopover to Europe, are suffering from myriad mental health issues including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

These are the hidden wounds migrants carry but rarely access treatment for.


There is no data for migrants living in Morocco although the United Nations says there are several tens of thousands.

Of those, 18,000 have requested asylum or already have refugee status, according to UNHCR.

According to the agency, one in four migrants needs psychological care.

Omer fled his country at war in 2019 and has been in Morocco for several months and is frustrated that reaching Spain has not proven as easy as he expected.

Omer does not share his real name nor country of origin but tells Efe he is gay and comes from a nation where homosexuality is a crime.

He tells Efe he has been seeking the help of a UNHCR psychologist, an organization that cares for the mental health of 175 refugees in Morocco, after being plagued by suicidal thoughts.

Rachid Hsine, head of UNHCR’s psychological assistance program in the north African country, says that the experiences of many migrants can lead to depression, a condition that at times requires medication.

The precarious conditions migrants face, homelessness, lack of access to medical care, feeling discriminated against, and a lack of resources to care for their children further exacerbate mental health issues.


Seventeen-year-old Abdala, was just 13 when he survived the capsizing of a dinghy in the Atlantic en route to the Canary Islands.

He witnessed the death of 24 of its occupants, including his father.

“I still see images of the shipwreck,” he tells Efe in the computer room of a shelter in the northern city of Tetouan, where he is studying to be an electrician.

His boat left El Aaiun, Western Sahara, and sailed one night and one day before sinking.

The adults drowned because their life jackets could not support the weight of their bodies. Only eight children survived.

They spent the night floating in the ocean before being rescued by the Royal Moroccan Navy.

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