Morocco continues deportation of illegal immigrants

There were no goodbyes, no official handshakes, as about 140 Malians climbed the stairs onto the first plane in Oujda, in northeast Morocco, that then left for Bamako, Mali, in West Africa.

Moroccan authorities began deporting sub-Saharan Africans on Monday, responding to an illegal immigration crisis that has gained speed in recent weeks with sometimes deadly results.

The Africans sent home were picked up recently after attempting to rush razor-wire fences around the Spanish enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta on the northern Moroccan coast and other places in Morocco, the AP reports.

Another flight, arranged by the International Organization for Migration, a Geneva-based intergovernmental group, left later Thursday. That took the total number of Malians deported on four flights Wednesday and Thursday to 639, with another 689 Senegalese deported on five flights earlier in the week, said Ahmed Faouzi, an Interior Ministry official.

On the later flight, all passengers were men aged 19 to 38. They signed a statement, many using just a fingerprint, aknowledging that they were being returned home voluntarily, the International Organization for Migration said.

The migrants received blankets, shoes or small bags filled with bread and milk for the flights home. Plainclothed policemen stood by at the Oujda airport to see them onto the plane.

Another plane carrying would-be migrants back to Senegal was to leave Thursday evening, and a final flight was expected Friday. A.M.

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