8 Mars, 12h18
Some of you may have already heard about our current situation in Morocco, however here is a brief outline for
everyone. On Saturday 6 March, authorities led by the Gendarmerie Royale came onto the property at Village of Hope and began interrogating the foreigners working here. They stayed on site until after midnight, searched the premises including the homes of the parents and children that live and work here, and confiscating some items. The abandoned Moroccan children in the care of the organisation (the oldest is 10) have also been interrogated by the police. At no time has an explanation been given for these actions, the searches have been without warrant (that we have seen), no legal representation has been offered or provided. When asked, they have simple said that they are operating under the authority of the national prosecutor.
As it happened, we were staying with friends in Azrou (30 minutes away) for the night. We were contacted on Saturday evening and told we would be interrogated that night. At about midnight we were contacted again and told that we must present ourselves to the police station at 8.30am the next morning. So we did. We were interrogated for 2.5 hours, once again without recourse to representation, any explanation of our rights and obligations, or any explanation for the purpose of the interrogation. They wanted to interrogate us separately but I insisted that this not happen – and in the end, they did not have a sufficient translator, so Tina had to translate between us, our friends, and the authorities – there were between 4 and 7 people in the room with us at varying times, some in uniform, some not. This was all done in the presence of our two children, and the two children of our friends. The questions asked included how we came to know about VoH, how we were personally financed, whether we were ‘sent’ by any agency, what we did when we meet together in our Sunday morning services at VoH, whether we were ‘evangelising’, and similar questions. At the end of the interrogation, I then shared some thoughts with them. I pointed out then when we arrived in the country, we were granted residency visas (that have since been renewed) – and that I had taken that to mean that we were welcome here. I said, that they way they are treating us now, says that we are no longer welcome. They interrogate us on the weekend, in front of our children, with no explanation, no recourse to representation. So, do they want us to leave? If so, we will. After this we left, and as we left, the chief guy started apologising for the ‘inconvenience’, they are just ‘doing their job’ etc.
In the afternoon we returned home. At midnight, we were again called, and told we must surrender our passports and Moroccan residency cards. Once again this was without explanation, we were not given receipts for our passports, and we have no idea if or when we will get them back. As a result, we have essentially been detained, as we are cannot leave the country without our passports.
This morning, we have come into work as usual. The authorities are now interviewing the Moroccan employed staff. Today, there are marked police cars on the site, on the road to the site, and blocking the entrance of a house one of the families lives in down the road. We were initially blocked from moving around the site, so could not take our children to daycare. As staff we have decided to continue on as per a normal day. However, we have all contacted our embassies, and informed them of what is going on. I have spoken to the NZ embassy in Madrid, which is accredited to Morocco, and have fully appraised them of the situation. They were very surprised that our passports have been taken, as they are the property of the NZ government. We have decided not to go to the media at this point, although we have been told that others from outside VoH are doing this also.
We are told that this is happening all over the country at the moment, and is being led from the ‘top’. 5 people in a similar situation to us were thrown out of the country yesterday. It is discrimination because we are Christians, and it is a violation of our human rights. However, we are not afraid, we do not fear for our safety, and do not feel in any physical danger. But it is stressful, we feel a bit on edge, as we don’t know where this is all going. Essentially the ‘worst’ that can happen to us is that we are ejected from the country also. We can be in Tanger in 7 hours in our car and take the ferry across to Spain, or we can drive to Casablanca and fly from there to wherever – however, without our passports, we are stuck here.
We don’t know what is going on, but we know who does. Please remember us at this time. Remember the Family here also. We will be in contact as things develop.
Chris, Tina, William and Samuel.
Chris Broadbent Human Resources Manager Village of Hope/Village de l’Espérance
Ain Leuh, Morocco