Hundreds of illegal immigrants to deport from Morocco

Morocco is preparing to deport hundreds of illegal immigrants to their native Senegal, a government official said Sunday, describing a new anti-immigration tactic by this North African kingdom.

Morocco the gateway to Europe for many sub-Saharan Africans fleeing poverty has been at the centre of an immigration crisis in recent weeks. Hundreds of Africans have stormed razor-wire border fences with Spanish territories, and at least a dozen have been killed. A Moroccan government official, who asked not to be identified by name, said his country was planning to fly 500-600 illegal immigrants back to their native Senegal on Monday. Some of those were arrested during the recent border rushes.

Until now, Moroccan authorities have dropped off illegal immigrants at the country's desert border with Algeria a practice that has provoked criticism from humanitarian groups, who pointed out that they had no shelter, food or water there.

On Sunday, the immigrants were en route to Oujda in northwest Morocco, where they will board planes home, the government official said.

The flights were to be chartered by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Organization for Migration, the official said. Telephone calls seeking confirmation from the groups went unanswered late Sunday. On Saturday, Amnesty International accused Spanish authorities of violating the European human rights convention by doing so. It said Spain expelled the immigrants without identifying them or considering their possible status as economic refugees or asylum seekers.

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