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Further expats at risk of expulsion from Morocco

Published: 6:44PM Wednesday March 10, 2010 Source: ONE News/NZPA

Further expat families may be expelled from Morocco after 23 foreign volunteers, including a New Zealand family, were expelled from the country without warning.

The Moroccan government claims the volunteers were "preaching" to children in a Moroccan orphanage, which is a breach of Moroccan law.

"We were gathered together and told by the police that our residencies were being revoked, and that therefore we were now illegally in the country and that we were to be exited out of the country forthwith," says New Zealander Chris Broadbent, one of the deported volunteers.

Broadbent and his partner Tina, along with their two young children, were given an hour and a half to pack and leave the orphanage run by the Village of Hope charity before being given an armed escort to the border.

David Goold, Tina Broadbent's father, has told of how the orphanage children were crying and visibly upset by the volunteers' departure, as they were the only family the children know.

Moroccan authorities spent more than two hours interrogating the Village of Hope volunteers, seizing Christian storybooks and CDs from their homes, and accusing them of trying to convert the orphans.

Goold dismisses the claims, however, saying that what the family were doing is "love".

"I mean, they go to rescue the children from possibly death, if not very, very difficult situations."

It is illegal in Morocco to convert Muslims to Christianity, but as the group had been left alone for nearly two years, Broadbent says it is not clear why the orphanage workers were suddenly forced out of the property, leaving the 33 children with nowhere to go.

"That they would abandon these children with nothing or very little care when there's so much need. I mean, you're talking about two year olds, severely handicapped (children) and babies," says Broadbent.

International persecution watchdog Christian Concern reports that six other foreign Christians have been deported from Morocco since early February.

It is believed the religious crackdown comes from Morocco's newly-appointed Minister of Justice, Mohamed Naciri.

The Broadbent family is now safely in Spain and planning to return to New Zealand.