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Morocco Tries to Stem Flow of Drugs, Migrants to Europe


February 1993

Morocco, a crossroads in the smuggling of contraband since antiquity, is now trying to crack down on the copious flow of drugs and immigrants into Europe (William Drozdiak, "Morocco Bars Smugglers' Gate to Europe: Good Relations With EC Nations Sought by Cracking Down on Flow of Drugs, Migrants," Washington Post, 1/24/93, A20).

The crackdown follows an increase in smuggling from what the Washington Post's William Drozdiak termed a "flow ... into a flood." European nations found the level of smuggling intolerable, according to Drozdiak. Morocco has a long Atlantic Ocean coastline, (close to Spain and Portugal) and its Mediterranean coast is 800 miles west and south of Marseille, France and Sardinia, Italy.

The contraband includes not only the centuries-old trade in hashish cultivated in Morocco's Rif mountains, but a growing flow of Colombian cocaine and thousands of immigrants pushed by drought and poverty to flee Africa into Europe.

Since the crackdown instituted by Moroccan King Hassan II, round-the-clock sea and air patrols were established, suspect customs agents were replaced by soldiers, and 400 politicians suspected of colluding with smugglers were forced out of local elections. The crackdown is seriously impacting Morocco's economy, according to interior minister Driss Basri.

Foreign criminal syndicates have been uprooted, Basri said, including those linked to Colombian drug smugglers and the Spanish and Italian mafias. He estimates that the livelihoods of 3 million Moroccans will be affected, and sees the most difficult problem as finding a substitute for the traditional hashish commerce of the Rif Mountains, which now encompasses 75,000 acres.