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The Moroccan Emigrant Population | Morocco |

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The Moroccan Emigrant Population

Hein de Haas

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Moroccans are the largest and most dispersed African immigrant population living in Europe, where they alone outnumber all West African migrants living in Europe.

Figure 1: Number of Moroccan citizens living in Europe, specified for France, 1972-2005 (bpb) Lizenz: cc by-nc-nd/2.0/de

Figure 1 illustrates the remarkably steady increase of the Moroccan population living abroad in defiance of the increasingly restrictive immigration policies of the former recruiting countries in Europe.

It also shows a decreasing spatial focus on France. The combined effects of family reunification, family formation, natural increase, undocumented migration and new labour migration to southern Europe and North America explain why the number of Moroccans living in the main European destination countries steadily increased from 300,000 in 1972, on the eve of the recruitment freeze, to at least 2.7 million in 2005.

This ninefold increase represents an average annual increase of about 73,000.

Figure 2: Evolution of population with Moroccan citizenship in main European destination countries, 1972-2005 (bpb) Lizenz: cc by-nc-nd/2.0/de

This does not include irregular migrants and smaller immigrant populations living in the United Kingdom and Scandinavia, which are estimated at a level of at least 100,000 persons.

Figure 3 shows that 85% of Moroccans living abroad live in European countries. In 2005, France was still home to the largest legally residing population of Moroccan descent (about 1,000,000), followed by Spain (500,000), Italy (350,000), Belgium (350,000), the Netherlands (325,000), and Germany (108,000). Smaller but rapidly growing communities of higher-skilled migrants live in the United States (at least 100,000) and Canada (at least 78,000). An estimated 300,000 Moroccans live in other Maghreb and Middle Eastern countries.

Moroccans are the largest and most dispersed African immigrant population living in Europe, where they alone outnumber all West African migrants living in Europe. Moroccans form the second most sizeable non-EU immigrant population living in Europe after Turks. While the Turkish migration to the EU is stagnating, Morocco has been among the top source countries of immigrants to the EU and is expected to overtake Turkey as the main source of non-EU immigrants in the coming decade.

It should be noted that these data give an inflated image of actual net migration, because they are based on Moroccan consular records, which include all people possessing Moroccan citizenship, including migrants and the second generation holding double citizenship. For instance, around 2003 about 1.5 million Morocco-born migrants were living in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the UK and the Netherlands , while about 2.3 million Moroccan citizens were living in those countries.

Figure 3: Distribution of Moroccan population living abroad, 2004 (bpb) Lizenz: cc by-nc-nd/2.0/de

While in the 1960s and early 1970s the large majority of workers migrating to Europe were single or married men, the proportion of women and children among Moroccan emigrant populations has steadily risen with increasing family reunification but also an increased participation of women in labour migration to Europe. In the early 2000s, 45% of all registered Moroccan migrants in France were women. These proportions were 48% Belgium, 42% in Germany and 49% in the Netherlands. In Spain and Italy, 33% and 40% of all registered Moroccan immigrants were women, which probably reflects the more recent nature of Moroccan migration in those countries.



  1. See Fargues (2005).

  2. See de Haas (2007d).

  3. See Fargues (2005).

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