By Paul Schemm
Moroccan security officials detained and expelled two members of the London-based Amnesty International human rights group researching immigration issues in the North African kingdom on Thursday.
The statement from the Interior Ministry said the two foreigners on the team didn’t have the requisite permission to carry out their research, adding that the government had asked Amnesty to delay the mission until they had obtained the necessary approval.
In a statement of its own, Amnesty identified the two as John Dalhuisen, its director of Europe and Central Asia and Irem Arf, a researcher in migration issues and said they had been received written and verbal assurances they could carry out their work.
“The decision to expel our staff from Morocco as they began their investigations into the human rights situation of migrants and refugees raises serious suspicions that the authorities have something to hide,” said Amnesty research director Anna Neistat.
Dalhuisen was taken from his hotel in the capital Rabat and Arf was stopped in the far eastern city of Oujda by police. Both were questioned for several hours, particularly about who they planned to meet, before being expelled.
An Amnesty delegation was most recently in Morocco in May when they delivered a scathing report about the use of torture in the country. The government condemned the report as biased.
Amnesty said relations with the government “deteriorated markedly” once it started investigating torture in Morocco.
Morocco has Africa’s only land border with Europe in the form of two Spanish enclaves perched on the coast and many African migrants try to force their way in. There are tens of thousands of sub-Saharan migrants living in Morocco seeking entrance into Europe.
Amnesty said the team was investigating the conditions of the migrants. There have been allegations of mistreatment at the hands of Moroccan and Spanish border guards.