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Background Information | Morocco |

Morocco Background Information Historical Trends Emigrant Population Immigration Irregular Migration Integration Policy Remittances Citizenship Refuge and Asylum Future Challenges Bibliography

Background Information

Hein de Haas

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Since the 1960s, Morocco has evolved into one of the prime source countries of labour migrants to Europe. Increasing immigration restrictions in Europe did little to stop migration, and have led instead to the increasingly irregular character of migration.

Since 1990, low-skilled Moroccan emigrants have increasingly headed to Italy and Spain, while the higher-skilled increasingly migrate to the US and Canada. Over three million people of Moroccan descent (out of a total population of over 31 million) are currently believed to be living abroad. Receiving an estimated US$ 5.6 billion in remittances (money transfers from migrants abroad) in 2006, Morocco was the largest remittance receiver in Africa.

Background InformationMorocco

Capital: Rabat
Language: Arabic (official), Berber languages, French
Area: 710,850 km2
Population (2007): 31,224,000
Population density (2007): 44 persons per km2
Population growth (1996-2007): 1.2%
Foreign nationals as percentage of population (2008 est.): 0.3%
Labor force participation rate (2007): 56.1%
Unemployment rate (2007): 9.8%
Religions: Muslim 98.7%, Christian 1.1%, Jewish 0.2%

Since 1995, Morocco has also evolved into a transit country for migrants and refugees from sub-Saharan Africa. Although many of them attempt to cross to Europe, those failing or not venturing to enter Europe prefer to stay in Morocco as a second-best option rather than returning to their more unstable, unsafe, and substantially poorer home countries. Their presence confronts Moroccan society with an entirely new set of social and legal issues typical for immigration countries, issues that do not yet resonate with Morocco´s self-image as an emigration country. Persistent demand for migrant labour in Europe, along with demographic factors and increasing aspirations due to improved education and intensive media exposure, suggest that the propensity to migrate over formally closed borders is likely to remain high in the near future. However, in the longer term, out-migration might decrease and Morocco could increasingly develop into a destination for migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa, a transition process that might have already been set in motion.


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Hein de Haas is a Senior Research Officer at the International Migration Institute of the University of Oxford. His research focuses on the reciprocal linkages between migration and broader development processes, in particular from the perspective of migrant-sending countries. He has conducted extensive fieldwork in Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia and, particularly, Morocco.