Moroccan police called in to deal with foreign youngsters on Paris streets

By and

Dozens of Moroccan youths roam the Goutte d'Or district of Paris, where they are both the authors and victims of violence and have been making life a misery for local inhabitants. Unable to cope, over the summer the French authorities called on Moroccan police officers to help arrange possible repatriation of some of the youngsters. Rachida El Azzouzi and Mathilde Mathieu report on a policy that has alarmed some local support groups.

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When Abdel – not his real name – first related how he had come face to face with Moroccan police during questioning at the Barbès police station in the north of Paris no one believed him. “You've taken too many drugs!” his friends said. Even the local youth workers raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure you didn't confuse them with interpreters?” they asked him. But in the end they all had to accept the evidence. This summer, under pressure from France, Morocco sent over six officials, four of them police officers, to lend a hand to the French authorities who have been overwhelmed by the presence of these Moroccan youngsters on the streets. Known in the jargon as 'Unaccompanied minors' or MNA in French, they are roaming the Goutte d'Or district in the city's 18th arrondissement.This unusual policing co-operation with kingdom of Morocco, which aims to identify and send some youngsters “back home”, worries a number of local associations who help foreigners in the area. They are anxious to ensure that France respects its legal and international obligations in relation to youngsters who enter the country without their family; their obligation to take them in and protect, not remove them.