Caitlin Dearing Scott
December 14, 2016
This year, Morocco preempted International Migrants Day – observed every December 18 to promote the protection of migrants worldwide – with an announcement launching the second phase of its campaign to regularize illegal immigrants.
To recall, Morocco adopted a new immigration policy providing protections for migrants and asylum seekers in November 2013, becoming the first country in the Arab world to develop such a policy. Implementation of the first phase of the campaign took place in 2014 and successfully regularized the status of 25,000 migrants, providing them with residency papers.
The second phase, which will begin on December 15, is expected to do more of the same. Those eligible for regularization, including foreigners with five years of residency in Morocco, those with chronic illnesses, and foreign spouses and children of Moroccan citizens, can apply at provincial and prefectural commissions throughout the country. A monitoring and appeals committee, chaired by the National Human Rights Council (CNDH), will also be set up to review applications rejected by the prefectural and provincial committees “in order to optimize the regularization process and increase the number of beneficiaries,” according to a communiqué from the National Commission in charge of Illegal Immigrants’ Regularization.
The announcement comes on the heels of several visits by King Mohammed VI to sub-Saharan African countries, including Senegal and Nigeria, two principal countries of origin for migrants in Morocco. During those visits, Morocco was praised for its efforts to promote the economic and social integration of illegal immigrants.
It also comes just a few months after the King’s widely-acclaimed speech on the occasion of the 63rd Anniversary of the Revolution of the King and People, in which he underscored Morocco’s continued commitment to improving the lives of fellow Africans through 1) joint human development projects and social services like education and healthcare in their home countries, and 2) “humanitarian” migration policies. Long a transit country for sub-Saharan migrants en route to Europe, Morocco has in recent years become a destination country. As a result, the Kingdom has had to address the governance challenges that come along with such a shift.
Though challenges remain – one need only look at recent pictures of the border with Spanish enclaves Ceuta and Melilla – the progress Morocco has made is worth noting, particularly as countries throughout the world grapple with increasing migration-related challenges.