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Immigration and Integration Policy | Morocco |

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Immigration and Integration Policy

Hein de Haas

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Since independence, Morocco has generally facilitated the immigration of students and professionals as well as spouses and children of Moroccan citizens.

Until the mid-1990s the presence of sub-Saharan migrants in Morocco and Tunisia remained largely limited to relatively small numbers of students, traders, professional workers, athletes and some refugees, mainly from francophone West African countries as well as Gabon and the Democratic Republic of Congo (former Zaire). Morocco has an active policy of inviting a quota of students from befriended African nations to study at Moroccan universities. Several African countries are exempted from visa programmes. Morocco has no active integration policy, and most forms of immigration are officially seen as temporary.

Emigration policy

Throughout the post-independence period, the Moroccan state has considered migration not only as a "safety valve" to prevent political tensions in Berber areas, but also as a tool for national economic development.

From the onset of migration, the Moroccan state has attempted to maintain tight control of migrant communities in Europe by explicitly addressing migrants as its subjects and, until the early 1990s, actively discouraging their integration into the receiving countries, including by naturalisation. The government sent Moroccan teachers and imams abroad and provided education on the Arabic language and Moroccan culture to migrants' children, to prevent integration and alienation, which was also perceived as endangering vital remittance transfers (see following section).

Through a control apparatus consisting of Moroccan embassies, consulates, mosques and state-created offices for migrants such as the "Amicales", Moroccan migrants were discouraged from establishing independent organisations, joining trade unions or political parties in the countries that the Moroccan state considered merely as their temporary place of residence. This policy served two purposes. First, the state wanted to prevent Moroccan migrants from organising themselves politically and thereby becoming a potential factor of opposition "from outside". Second, as it was perceived as endangering the vital remittance transfers, integration was to be avoided.

These policies were increasingly criticised, not only by the governments of destination countries, which saw them running against their integration policies, but also in Morocco as awareness rose that these policies alienated migrant population from state institutions rather than binding them. The failure of these "remote control" policies and an ominous stagnation in remittances prompted the Moroccan state to change course over the 1990s by adopting a more positive attitude. Along with the partial dismantling of the control apparatus in Europe, this has meant an increasingly favourable attitude towards naturalization, dual citizenship and voting rights for migrants abroad.

Superficially, past repression has been replaced by the active courting of the rapidly-expanding Moroccan Diaspora. Along with policies to facilitate holiday returns, remittances and the co-opting of former exiles by inviting them to take up official positions, the state adopted a positive attitude towards migrants acquiring double citizenship and their integration into receiving societies. This has apparently contributed to spectacular increases in remittances and holiday visits. However, these targeted policies could only be successful because of continuing emigration and because they were an integral part of a more general political liberalisation process, which has changed the attitude of the state towards Moroccan citizens in general. At the same time, this reform has been only partial and the Moroccan state has not given up a number of instruments to control emigrants. This is most evident in its systematic opposition to emigrants relinquishing Moroccan citizenship.

In 1990, a ministry for Moroccans residing abroad was created and the Moroccan government established the Fondation Hassan II pour les Marocains Résidant à l´Étranger. The aim of this foundation is to foster and reinforce the links between Moroccan migrants and Morocco through assisting them in various ways, both while in Europe and during their summer holidays in Morocco, and to inform and guide migrants on investment opportunities. These coincided with a more general liberalization of Moroccan society through the 1990s. Increasing civil liberties also meant more freedom among migrants to establish organizations such as Berber, "home town," and aid associations.

Recently, the Moroccan state has put effort into creating the Conseil Supérieur de la Communauté Marocaine à l´Etranger (CSCME), the High-Level Council for the Moroccan Community living Abroad. The Conseil Consultatif des Droits de l´Homme (CCDH), a consultative council created in 1994 to advise the King on human rights issues, plays an increasingly important role in this process. In 2003 a special commission on the human rights of emigrants was created , comprising (appointed) representatives from emigrant communities. In November 2006, extensive consultations were initiated in preparation for the creation of the CSCME. The 37 members of the council were formally appointed by King Mohammed VI in 2008.



  1. See de Haas (2007a).

  2. See Belguendouz (2006).

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