Morocco uses special flights to deport hundreds of illegal immigrants

Morocco sent African immigrants home by the hundreds on special flights for a second day Tuesday, in a bid to stop the continent's poor from using this North African kingdom as a stepping stone to Europe.

Illegal immigrants were being rounded up in buses around the country and placed in special centers. A member of a Spanish anti-racism group said some immigrants were being taken to military camps in the Western Sahara territory to the south before deportation.

Morocco has come under fire for its handling of recent attempts by sub-Saharan Africans to rush barbed-wire fences at two Spanish enclaves in northern Morocco. Nearly a dozen Africans have died - some of gunshot wounds - as they attempted to get to the other side.

Many of those being deported say Moroccan authorities initially stranded them in the desert before picking them up days later and busing them to special centers. Morocco denies it abandoned anyone, the AP reports.

However, Morocco's bold efforts to stop the surge of immigrants from using the country as a springboard to Spain drew international attention and underscored the larger issue of migrant flows that have troubled transit countries, and Europe, for decades. Officials here and abroad insist the problem must be treated on an international scale. A.M.

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