Migration is inevitable – people who decide to migrate are generally looking for a better life elsewhere compared to their home country. For some, this decision is driven by poverty, family and social problems, political instability and civil conflict. There is a process to do this and paperwork to complete but it is time-consuming and in most cases, there is no certainty. When migration happens illegally and in large numbers, problems can arise and negatively impact both the migrants themselves and the country or countries involved.
There have been a large number of sub-Saharan migrants mainly originating from Cameroon, Nigeria, Gabon, Chad and other African countries, making headlines in Morocco. About 25,000 are estimated to be living illegally in Morocco and are looking for a better life in Europe by trying to enter Ceuta and Melilla, which are both part of Spain.
In September 2013, as part of its effort to reform its migration policy, the Moroccan government announced a new migration and asylum system which would comply with international standards set by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). This system would examine each case individually before offering legal status to undocumented migrants. This announcement saw thousands of migrants queuing up in Rabat to submit their application for legal status.
This however, has not stopped many others who have attempted to cross into the Spanish enclaves Ceuta and Melilla. Just recently some 700 sub-Saharan African migrants were reported to have attempted to cross into the Spanish enclave of Ceuta from Morocco but were turned back by Moroccan security forces.
These migrants are aware that European asylum rules and regulations have to be enforced in the enclaves and therefore upon entry, they would be welcomed into the Temporary Center for Immigrants and Asylum Seekers (CETI). It was noted however that the centre is currently overcrowded with undocumented migrants waiting for asylum papers and the Spanish government cannot send them back to Morocco. This raises a high degree of cooperation required between the two countries, with a common policy to prevent migrants from entering Ceuta or Melilla from Morocco.
Whilst the Moroccan government may have started to open up its doors and grant permanent residency to qualified sub-Saharan migrants, one might still wonder how the influx of migrants from the other African countries will affect the social and economic environment for local Moroccans in the near future.