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 REPORT: Migrations: Nigerian leaves family, crosses Sahara with dream of becoming football star in Europe

Written by Fabiola Ortiz


 Oujda, Morocco, Dec. 17 (Lusa) - Onoma Anigorigo, a 25-year-old citizen of Nigeria now living in Morocco after crossing the Sahara, is awaiting his chance to continue on to Europe to follow his dream of becoming a football star.
 
"I want to try to play in Switzerland, Germany or France," said Anigorigo, who three years ago left his wife and a seven-year-old daughter in Nigeria in search of a decent living to support his family. "I believe that I can get a job there too. I'm a hard-working man."
 
Starting out from Delta state in the south of Nigeria, he headed north into Niger and then Algeria, before walking across the border into Morocco one night before dawn.
 
So far he has played for small football clubs in Gambia and Morocco, but none paid him.
 
Anigorigo managed to cross the border between Algeria and Morocco despite its having been closed since 1994, when the government in Rabat imposed visa requirements for Algerians.
 
The border between the two countries runs for 1,600 kilometres, making it one of the longest closed borders in the world.
 
"I arrived here walking in the middle of the night," Anigorigo recalls. "It was seven hours on foot to Oujda. It wasn't easy."
 
The Nigerian lives in a suburb of Oujda, the capital of Morocco's Oriental region, whose population is about half a million.
 
Oujda, which is almost 15 hours by train to Rabat, is just 15 kilometres from the Algerian frontier.
 
With the little he can gather begging on the streets, Anigorigo pays 500 dirhams a month (about 50 euros) to live in a small room.
 
He is one of some 27,000 migrants who have benefited from Morocco's new policy to regularise them, introduced in 2013.
 
He now has a resident card that he renews every year and which allows him to travel in the country with the guarantee that he will not be deported, arrested or beaten up by the police.
 
Nigerians are among the most numerous foreign nationals in Morocco, along with those from French-speaking African countries.
 
"It's not easy to live here," says Anigorigo. "The difficult thing is to find work: the problem in this country is the lack of jobs.
 
"The language is also a barrier. I only speak English - I don't understand French or Arabic." While he awaits an opportunity to continue on to Europe in a legal way, Anigorigo relies on the solidarity of those going about their business on the streets of Oujda.
 
"There are many people dying at sea," he tells Lusa. "That's not fair. My dream is to reach Europe, but not by sea. I believe it's always better to have documents and be regularised.
 
"Today I have papers. I'll wait for a sign from God, and in the meantime, I'll try to put some money together."
 
Jawad Benaicha, the representative of the Al Wafae association, a non-governmental organisation in Oujda, tells Lusa that although the frontier is closed, many people form sub-Saharan Africa continue to arrive in town after crossing the border illegally.
 
"The dream of reaching Europe is still there," he says. "Some decided to stay in Morocco, but only a small number."
 
It is estimated that each person must pay 400 euros to cross the frontier from Algeria - a price that has tripled since 2015, according to the United Nations. There are some 200 new arrivals in Oujda every month.
 
Benaicha welcomes Morocco's new immigration policy, but criticises the government for seeking to shift many of its responsibilities onto NGOs like his.
"The government should do more," he says. "It's transferring the responsibility of implementing this policy to civil Society."
 
More remote parts of the country, such as Oujda, should have government offices, Benaicha argues.
 
"At the moment the whole bureaucracy is centralised in Rabat," he says. "Anything that needs to be done must be sent to the capital. There should be a national representative here."
 
FO // VM
Lusa/End
 


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