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Non-profit cancels work camps in Morocco following threats

© Clarisse Vansteene/Bouworde

The non-profit organisation Bouworde has announced the cancellation of further work camps for young people in Morocco, following threats aimed towards volunteers in the country.

As we reported yesterday, a teacher in the north of the country was arrested after calling for some of the young volunteers to be beheaded after they were seen in a TV report working on a path dressed in shorts. He will be charged with hate speech.

He was joined by a member of the country’s ruling Islamic party in criticising the way the young people were dressed. No action was taken against the MP.

Now the Belgian embassy in the Moroccan capital Rabat has advised Bouworde to suspend further work camps in the country for the rest of the season. Bouworde works in disadvantaged areas of the country to help with construction projects. During the summer they recruit young volunteers, mainly from Flanders, to help work on construction projects.

The safety of the young people present at the moment is guaranteed by the Moroccan authorities,” explained Karen Heylighen of Bouworde. “The gendarmerie is there to back them up. We gave everyone the option to return home early; three of the 37 young people accepted, and we will organise that. Unfortunately the embassy has advised us not to let any more young volunteers come.”

The reason, she said, is the attention the incident has received in the press and on social media. “We will of course follow that advice, which concerns all travel to Morocco this season. About 80 volunteers will not be able to depart from Belgium.”

The incident, she said, is in marked contrast with the non-profit’s experience. “It’s not about the safety of the young people, but the fact that one individual can have such an impact in a country which has been nothing but welcoming to us for the last 15 years.”

Bouworde said it had no plans to tighten up its clothing rules for future camps. “We give the young people an initiation on interculturalism before their departure, so they can be aware of the customs and habits of the region. We see no reason to stress that even more,” a spokesperson said.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times