Seven months after being kicked out of Morocco, more than a dozen Christian parents have still been unable to see their foster children.
And the chances that they'll ever be reunited with them seem very slim.
The foster parents, who were raising 33 orphaned or abandoned children at a Moroccan orphanage called Village of Hope, have appealed their expulsion and are awaiting a decision by the Administrative Court of First Instance in Rabat, Morocco.
They claim that the Village of Hope was legally registered and thus mass deportations of its workers violated the protections afforded to associations under the North African country's administrative law, Roger Kiska, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, explained.
"In essence, the police illegally bypassed the administrative courts in deporting the association's workers," he told The Christian Post on Friday.
The Christian workers were expelled from the country over proselytism allegations, though none of them were formally charged. They have denied accusations that they tried to convert the children and said they were in compliance with the country's laws prohibiting proselytism.
Notably, the Village of Hope had operated with the full knowledge of Moroccan authorities for 10 years. It was registered as an official Christian organization and the government knew the workers were Christian.
The VoH workers have appealed to the king of Morocco, expressing their anguish and their desire to see their foster children again.
But fighting their case in Moroccan courts has proven to be ineffective.
Kiska said that a second claim was filed in Meknes – a city in northern Morocco – that has made their case more difficult. In that claim (which they were not made aware of), the court appointed a new director of VoH and dismissed all of the deportees.
With that, "the government came back at the end of August in our administrative case and told us we have no standing since we no longer are VoH because of the new director," the ADF attorney said.
So far, the Christian workers have been denied access to the courts to defend themselves.
Though their case, filed in Rabat, has not been dismissed yet, Kiska explained that without winning an appeal to the Meknes decision, "our chances are de minimus."
If the case is dismissed, the foster parents will seek alternative ways of appealing the decision. But if those fail, they will not be able to see their foster children.
The Moroccan government has set up temporary guardianship of the children at VoH but after the traumatizing separation in March, some are suffering from depression and at times are aggressive, Kiska said.
The foster parents were really the only parents the children knew, he noted.
Kiska also pointed out that the Moroccan government is illegally using the assets that belong to VoH workers without compensation.
Human rights advocate Aidan Clay of International Christian Concern said the court decision "reflects badly on the values and basic fairness of the Moroccan justice system and courts, being not only an injustice to the VOH staffers but also callous disregard of the interests of the 33 children who know VOH as their only family."
"Human rights in Morocco continue to suffer significant setbacks," commented Clay, ICC's regional manager for the Middle East.
Morocco is considered one of the most liberal Islamic countries and is known for its religious tolerance, though the government restricts non-Islamic religious materials and proselytizing and monitors the activities of non-Muslim religious groups. The recent deportations of not only VoH workers, but also dozens of other Christians, however, have called into question whether religious freedom exists in Morocco.
Christians comprise about one percent of Morocco's 31.2 million-large population. Muslims, meanwhile, comprise 98.7 percent.