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Once Just A Gateway To Europe, Morocco Now Has Its Own African Immigrant Tensions

Analysis: As Europe closes its borders, Morocco is becoming a new immigration destination for the rest of Africa. And like Europe, it is failing to address the issue intelligently.

Article illustrative image Partner logo The changing face of Morocco

RABAT — Tensions are growing between Moroccans and immigrants from the rest of Africa. In May, Abdelhadi Khayrat, a Member of Parliament, described immigrants as "Libyan-trained terrorists conspiring to unhinge Morocco."

From local populations who are quick to throw stones to elected representatives who overstep their prerogatives, the question of immigration is something that needs to be addressed. In the cities of Taourirt, Casablanca and Rabat, local authorities recently organized wide scale raids, arresting hundreds of illegal sub-Saharan immigrants.

Stuck between a Europe that feels besieged by immigrants and the African continent where people would risk almost anything for a chance at a better life, Morocco is changing before our eyes. For immigrants, it used to be a stopover on the way to Europe, but it is slowly becoming a new El Dorado in itself. Unfortunately, the country's legal and social framework hasn't adapted to this new context.

Illegal expulsions

Stephane Julinet, in charge of legal issues at the GADEM (Anti-racist Group for Accompaniment and Defense of Foreigners and Migrants), believes the recent raids against sub-Saharan immigrants were against the law. Article 23 states that "foreigners who have been notified of their expulsion have 48 hours to ask for an annulment by the president of the administrative court." Given the fact that these arrests aren't made on a case-by-case basis and that "it is the prosecutor who decides to expel foreigners despite the law requiring an administrative decision," there is clear disregard for the legal process, says Julinet.

Article 29 specifies that a foreigner being expelled must be sent back to his country of citizenship, unless he has been granted refugee status or an asylum request is pending. Despite the clear options determined by the law, all illegal immigrants are currently being parked by the Algerian border — a border which is officially closed since 1994 — without taking into account their country of origin, how they entered Morocco, and without the help of a translator or lawyer.

This makes the whole process, from beginning to end, illegal. Given the highly sensitive context, following the law should guarantee that the rights and dignity of all the people involved are respected. For Julinet, "Morocco must apply its own laws and stop treating the immigration issue as a mere security problem. It is time for Morocco to implement a real policy for integration."

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