By Javier Otazu
Rabat, Morocco, Apr 28 (EFE).- Some 20,000 sub-Saharan migrants are sinking into deep poverty in Morocco due to the coronavirus crisis, a situation that has led many to turn to the Catholic Church for aid.
The figures, calculated by sociologist Mehdi Alioua, include both regularized migrants and irregular residents, all of them sub-Saharan.
This community, which has always made a living from precarious jobs such as construction, street vending or domestic service, have witnessed how the pandemic has thrown them into poverty overnight, Alioua tells Efe.
“A few days after the confinement was decreed (on 19 March), they knocked on the back door of the cathedral with a very simple message: ‘We are hungry; help us, father,’” Daniel Nourissat, the priest at Rabat’s Cathedral, said.
Sacks of flour and sugar, packets of rice, bottles of oil, milk, canned sardine and diapers are piled up waiting to be organized by volunteers.
The distribution of aid among the poor, many of whom are sub-Saharan Africans who have not been able to reach Europe, was a spontaneous response from the church when the pandemic arrived in the country.
In the long queues around the church, nobody was dressed in protective gear nor followed any social distancing protocol.
Nourissat began contacting international institutions to help finance the initiative after word began to spread.
“Only the International Organization for Migration (IOM) answered, but it helps us. They send us migrants who knock on their doors because their offices are closed and they are teleworking now,” the priest says.
Nourissat points the finger at Western embassies and the European Commission itself, calling on them to do more.
“They ask me for more and more paperwork to carry out procedures, but please! This is a humanitarian emergency! People are starving!” he laments.
“When it comes to the church, Europeans put obstacles everywhere”.
It is estimated that some 2,500 people have benefited from the Catholic church’s aid thanks to 90 volunteers who answered the calls of those in need, giving them an appointment to collect food and basic products for entire families or groups of up to 20 people.
Nourissat shows a big handwritten list with applicants’ names, phone numbers, and the number of family members.
There are so many on the list that it will take between a week and ten days to attend all of them.
When their turn finally comes, petitioners go to the cathedral to collect their sack individually to avoid gatherings.
Each bag contains detergent, oil, flour, rice, sugar, pasta, sardines and beans.
“Father, give me money for the taxi. I walked several kilometres to arrive and I can’t return on my own with so much weight,” says an Ivorian migrant after picking up his bag.
Nourissat takes a note from his pocket and gives it to him.