Rabat

A rest house for refugee women

Europe's refusal to accept people seeking protection leads to thousands of deaths in the Sahara and the Mediterranean. Every year! Refugees are mercilessly exploited. Women in particular are often victims of sexual violence. Beside the direct protection in our rest house in Rabat, Morocco, they need a new place for meeting, education and self-help!

Protection for the most vulnerable

The women from sub-Saharan Africa flee from war, hunger and violence. On the run, they often become victims of sexualised violence - sometimes by male fellow migrants, but mostly by traffickers and border guards. On the way, women are often misused as "sexual change" so that they and their children and companions can cross the borders. Once the arduous journey through the desert is over, they face new torments in the Maghreb: discrimination, racist hostility and police chases. Without residence status and without rights, they are exploited and betrayed at work, if they get a job at all. But many migrant women have begun to defend themselves and organise themselves. This has created places that offer protection to the most vulnerable among them. In Africa, the effects of Fortress Europe are now being felt dramatically. Refugees and migrants are already being intercepted in the Sahara on behalf of the EU, locked up in internment camps and deported back south. In the desert, for example, there is already no alternative but to accept highly dangerous detours with the help of traffickers.

A first rest house for refugee women

"In 2015 we rented a first apartment in Rabat for women who had experienced violence during their crossing of the desert - the beginning of the project "Rest House for refugee women" was done. We named it "Baobab" after the African tree. There are now five apartments for a total of sixty women with their children. There are no signs at the front doors to protect the women from persecution and harassment. In principle, migrant women of all nationalities are welcome, although the offer is primarily directed to newly arrived women from sub-Saharan Africa in Morocco. Here they can rest and plan their next steps. The accommodation and the ingredients for a common meal are free and there is an emergency budget for medical treatment. Due to the enormous demand, the length of stay for the women has to be limited to two to three months. But many stay close by and we try not to leave them alone. The self-help initiative ARCOM (Association des Refugié-e-s et Communautés Migrantes), which I co-founded, is responsible for the administration of the rest house. In December 2018 it finally received recognition as an association from the Moroccan government. This gives us security for our future work. Today we face new challenges: The creation of a centre with social, cultural and economic activities for migrant women in our neighbourhood could open up long-term perspectives". Emmanuel Mbolela

More room for long-term perspectives

The immediate emergency aid in the rest houses continues. But there is not enough space. Our friends of Baobab are doing everything in their power to save the refugee women and children a life on the streets. Currently, 90 children are able to attend school. The association ARCOM also offers courses in literacy, Arabic, French and English for the women, children and young people. Moroccan children from the neighbouring slums also take part. The direct contacts between locals and migrant women are the best means for peaceful coexistence. So far, the courses have taken place in an apartment that is far too small, and which is also an office, advice centre and dormitory. Now we are looking for larger premises. We want to find a building in which we can also accommodate all future activities.