Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons
The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.
Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Refugees and asylum seekers, as well as migrants, were particularly vulnerable to abuse; however, in contrast to previous years, following the 2014 migrant regularization program, there were fewer reports of mass arrests and brutalization by security forces of sub-Saharan migrants and of abuse by criminal gangs involved in human trafficking. There were reports of government authorities arresting or detaining migrants, particularly around the Spanish enclave cities of Melilla and Ceuta, and forcibly relocating them to other cities in the country (see section 1.d.).
In-country Movement: The law provides for freedom of internal movement. Authorities generally respected this right.
Exile: While the law provides for forced exile, there were no instances of forced exile during the year.
Emigration and Repatriation: The government encouraged the return of Sahrawi refugees from Algeria and elsewhere if they acknowledged the government’s authority over Western Sahara. The government continued to make travel documents available to Sahrawis, and there were no reported cases of authorities preventing Sahrawis from traveling out of the country. On August 22, media reported that authorities prevented Salem Bachir, also known as Salem Hamda or M’Hamed Salem Hamda Birouk, the POLISARIO “Ambassador” to Argentina, from entering the territory at the airport in Laayoune. According to authorities, they prevented Bachir’s entry in the interest of public security.
PROTECTION OF REFUGEES
The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, and other persons of concern. The government also provided funding to humanitarian organizations to provide social services to migrants, including refugees. As of October 31, UNHCR registered 1,151 Syrians. UNHCR referred cases meeting the criteria for refugee recognition to the government’s interministerial Commission in Charge of Hearings for Asylum Seekers within the Bureau of Refugees and Stateless Persons, and 70 non-Syrian individuals were granted status as of the end of November. The government continued to grant status to UNHCR-recognized refugees and temporary status to registered Syrians. According to UNHCR statistics, since 2013 the Commission in Charge of Hearings for Asylum Seekers has recognized as refugees 696 non-Syrians referred by UNHCR.
Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of refugee status. The government has historically deferred to UNHCR as the sole agency in the country entitled to perform refugee status determinations and verify asylum cases. The government recognizes two types of asylum status: refugees designated according to the UNHCR statute and the “exceptional regularization of persons in irregular situation.” In 2015 the government continued to provide “exceptional regularization” to Syrians seeking international protection.
On December 15, the government launched the second phase of its migrant regularization program to provide legal status to migrants in exceptional circumstances. This program, similar to the 2014 campaign, will grant legal status to foreign spouses and children of citizens and other legal residents of the country, as well as individuals with at least five years of residence in the country, a valid work contract, or chronic illness.
Access to Basic Services: Recognized refugees were able to gain access to health care and education services. Asylum seekers were, however, often unable to access the national health care system and continued to have little access to the judicial system until recognized as refugees. Registered refugees and regularized migrants have the right to work.