Caitlin Dearing Scott
September 21, 2016
Late last month, in a widely-acclaimed speech on the occasion of the 63rd Anniversary of the Revolution of the King and People, King Mohammed VI strongly condemned terrorism and extremism and stressed that “Muslims, Christians and Jews have to close ranks in order to tackle all forms of extremism, hatred and reclusiveness.”
Less widely covered were the King’s remarks on an equally pressing era of our time – migration. In that same speech, 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) through “humanitarian” migration policies in Morocco. 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.
The King referenced Morocco’s 2013 immigration policy –the first such policy in the Arab world – which was designed to provide protections for migrants and asylum seekers. He noted that “[t]his humanitarian policy has earned Morocco the honor of co-chairing, alongside Germany, the Global Forum on Migration and Development for 2017-2018.” And he said:
Morocco was one of the first countries of the South to adopt a genuine solidarity-based policy regarding sub-Saharan migrants. This integrated policy, which is rooted in humanitarian values, is designed to make sure migrants’ rights and dignity are safeguarded. As part of the implementation of this policy, my country has, without any arrogance, pomposity or discrimination, regularized the situation of migrants using fair and reasonable standards. It has provided the conditions needed for migrants to reside, work and lead a dignified life within our community.
And it has done just that for nearly 23,000 illegal migrants whose status has been regularized since the policy took effect.
Though challenges remain – one need only look at recent pictures of the border with Spanish enclaves Ceuta and Melilla or listen to the King’s words about “difficulties” faced by Africans in Morocco – the progress Morocco has made is worth noting, particularly as countries throughout the world grapple with increasing migration-related challenges.