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Immigration and Transit Migration | Morocco |

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Immigration and Transit Migration

Hein de Haas

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While Morocco is generally known as a typical emigration country, since the mid 1990s it has also developed into a destination and transit zone of migrants coming from sub-Saharan, mainly West African, countries.

While Morocco has received limited numbers of student migrants and highly-skilled workers from sub-Saharan countries such as Senegal, Mali and Zaire, immigration remained very limited in the post-independence era.

This changed after the mid 1990s, when more and more trans-Saharan migrants started to migrate to Morocco, often in an attempt to cross the Mediterranean from the Moroccan coastline. Initially, this flow from sub-Saharan Africa seemed to be a reaction to political turmoil and civil war affecting several West African countries and the concomitant economic decline in regional destination countries such as Côte d´Ivoire. In particular the anti-immigrant backlash occurring in Libya since 2000 has encouraged more and more sub-Saharan migrants working there to join the flow of Moroccans and other Maghrebis who already started migrating illegally to southern Europe from the early 1990s.

However, it is a misunderstanding that all sub-Saharan migrants migrate to Morocco to cross to Europe. An increasing number of sub-Saharan migrants work or pursue studies in Morocco, sometimes as a means to gain residency status. In 2005, 25,000 African migrants were legally residing in Morocco, and their numbers seem to be increasing. Another 28,000 Europeans were officially residing in Morocco in 2005, including an increasing number of French retirement migrants settling in cities such as Marrakech. Because this only reflects the number of official African and European residents, the real number of people living on Morocco soil is likely to be substantially higher and, by all accounts, growing.



  1. See Fargues (2005) and Berriane (2007).

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