Morocco Migration

By | June 20, 2021

Migration and flight

Morocco, from emigration to transit and immigration country

Morocco is a country of emigration, transit and immigration at the same time. Since independence in 1956, the state has focused politically primarily on the issue of emigration.

Hundreds of thousands of Moroccans have gone to Europe to work since the 1960’s. Some of them were specifically recruited, others came as tourists and stayed – a possibility that most Moroccans are now barred from.

According to oxfordastronomy, many Moroccan migrant workers from the 1960’s and 1970’s brought their families to join them and stayed permanently in France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain or Germany. There are an estimated four million people with Moroccan roots in the EU today. There are other large communities in Canada and in West Africa (Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana). The total number of the Moroccan diaspora is estimated at over 5 million (figures from the High Planning Commission for Morocco HCP and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Morocco).

Politically responsible for Moroccans living abroad is the “Marocains du Monde” ministry. Some responsibilities for immigration, transit migration, flight and asylum also lie here, with the four areas mentioned being largely assigned to the Ministry of the Interior (see below, sub-chapter Immigration, Transit Migration, Flight, Asylum)

Around 100,000 people leave Morocco every year. The proportion of Moroccans abroad (MRE) in the total population is 10-15% (figures vary because the criteria for national affiliation are not uniformly defined in data surveys). How high the Moroccan government estimates the political and economic potential of this group is shown, among other things, by the fact that several state and quasi-state institutions are concerned with matters relating to the “MRE”. In addition to the aforementioned ministry, there is a foundation under the name of the late King Hassan II and – since 2007 – the Council for Moroccans Abroad CCME who is directly under the supervision of King Mohammed VI. is subject to. According to information from the Ministry of Emigration, remittances from Moroccans abroad are around 6 billion euros per year and form a pillar of the Moroccan economy.

While most Moroccans used to emigrate to France, Belgium and the Netherlands, Spain has become an important destination country since the 1990’s. In the 2000’s, more than three quarters of a million immigrants from Morocco received legal residence permits or citizenship there. Almost 900,000 people with Moroccan roots currently live in Spain, 15% of them in Barcelona and 10% each in Murcia and Madrid.

Outside of Europe, Francophone Canada in particular has developed into an important destination. Around 100,000 migrants with a Moroccan background now live there. Around 30,000 Moroccans live in Great Britain.

Precise information on the number of MREs in EU countries is difficult, as the available statistics do not always indicate exactly whether they are speaking of Moroccans with EU residence permits or Moroccans who have acquired EU citizenship. This is what the estimate for 2020 looks like:

  • France 1.3 million
  • Spain 900,000
  • · Netherlands 300,000
  • Belgium 700,000
  • · Italy, 450,000
  • Israel 450,000
  • Germany 140,000

According to opinion polls, most Moroccans abroad in Europe are in close contact with their homeland, but see their future more in Europe.

Morocco Migration

Immigration, flight and asylum in Morocco

Migration and flight are central issues in development cooperation with Morocco. Overall, however, the number of foreigners and refugees in Morocco is comparatively low, according to a short study by the HBS.

According to the census and the High Planning Commissioner HCP, the number of foreigners living legally in Morocco in 2014 was around 85,000: an increase of over 100% compared to 2004. Of the 85,000 legal foreigners, 40% came from Europe and 40% from Africa (thereof 65 percent from sub-Saharan Africa and 35 percent from Algeria). Other legal foreigners came from Asia and the American continent. The largest national communities came from France (25%), Senegal and Algeria (each approx. 7%) and Syria (6%).

The official planning basis for the immigration, transit migration, flight and asylum sectors is the National Strategy for Immigration and Asylum (NSIA) from 2014. Background information on trends between 2016 and 2019 is contained in an evaluation report by UNHCR Rabat on migration and flight in Morocco.

In recent years, under pressure from the EU, the Moroccan government has stepped up its measures to prevent illegal migration. The Moroccan police sometimes use extreme violence: illegal migrants have been injured or even killed several times.

The number of refugees and migrants from sub-Saharan countries living in Morocco has increased again since 2018, with Morocco increasingly preventing them from passing through. Among other things, refugees and illegal migrants avoid the route via Libya on their way to Europe because of the lack of security and are increasingly choosing the Mediterranean-West route again.

Illegal migrants and refugees find concrete support from Caritas Morocco, the Fondation Orient Occident and the national representations of foreign non-governmental organizations such as Doctors Without Borders. Politically active NGOs like GADEM (Rabat) strive for structural improvements for the people.

Several thousand migrants are in the country for work or to study, but most of them are illegally without papers. Their number is estimated at up to 50,000. Morocco has signed the United Nations Refugee Convention. So far, however, there is no asylum or refugee law. Asylum seekers must submit an application through the UNHCR, which is based in Rabat. The refugees recognized by the UNHCR were only tolerated in Morocco for a long time. They received no work permits, no government support, and were not allowed to go to public universities or hospitals. In mid-2013, Morocco agreed a so-called mobility partnership with the EU. In November of the same year, King Mohammed announced a new speech in a speech from the throne migration and asylum policy. This was followed by a one-year legalization campaign from January 1 to December 31, 2014. By the end of 2014, a good 16,000 and by the beginning of February 2015 around 17,000 foreigners in Morocco had received a temporary residence permit. Most of them came from sub-Saharan Africa: around 30% from Senegal alone. Almost 20 percent came from Syria. Thanks to legalization, some of the refugees now have, at least in theory, access to basic health care under RAMED, and the chances of some of the refugees to get legal work and affordable housing are improving. International and national human rights organizations such as GADEM and FIDH rate the new Moroccan refugee policy with skepticism and call for further measures.

Since 2019 Morocco and the EU are negotiating a readmission agreement for illegal immigrants * inside that come from Morocco or who have been on their way to Europe in Morocco.

Interview with migration researcher Mehdi Alioua

The Moroccan migration researcher Mehdi Alioua spoke in October 2019 on the sidelines of a conference of the Heinrich Böll Foundation Rabat about the background and current trends in migration policy in Morocco and Africa. He puts the number of people with a Moroccan background outside of Morocco at 5 million. Other estimates are 3-4 million.

Forced migration, human trafficking

For centuries people were sold as slaves to Morocco, mainly from Africa, but also from Europe. Since Jewish families were not allowed to have Muslim slaves, they bought people of Christian faith who were stolen by pirates (e.g. in Sale, which is now part of Rabat). Marrakech was an important hub for slaves. The last slave market took place there in 1920. In 1922, slavery was officially abolished in Morocco.