Thursday 4 October 2012

IOM's dubious mission in Morocco

This week, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) launched an appeal to raise 620,000 euros to "help desperate African migrants, including unaccompanied children, return home from Morocco". The money would be used to fly migrants back home and to help returnees to start up businesses in their own country.

At first sight, this may sound laudable, but what seems to be happening here is that IOM tries to make money out of the violation of migrants' rights by the Moroccan government.

Since 2000, Morocco has witnessed increased immigration from sub-Saharan African countries such as Senegal, Mali, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. While many migrants originally moved to Morocco in the hope to cross to Europe, a considerable proportion of those failing or not venturing to enter Europe prefer to stay as a second-best option instead of returning to their more unstable, unsafe, and substantially poorer origin countries.

An increasing number of sub-Saharan migrants go to Morocco to study or in search of work in sectors such as domestic work, construction and call centres. This defies the stereotype of Morocco as only an emigration or 'transit' country. Although the number of sub-Saharan immigrants is not higher tan several tends of thousands, Morocco is undeniably becoming a settlement country, and Morocco's large cities such as Rabat, Casablanca and Fes now host sizeable immigrant communities.

Yet the Moroccan government and society have difficulties in coming to terms with this new reality. Besides day-to-day discrimination and frequent racist attacks, many sub-Saharan immigrants lack residency rights and access to health care, education and other basic provisions.

Many migrants live in fear for migrant raids and random arrests. This makes them vulnerable for exploitation and extortion by employers, house-owners and state officials. Refugees and asylum seekers lack protection by the Moroccan state, which treats them as 'illegals' or 'transit migrants', and often live in fear to be deported.

So, what is going on here? Because the Moroccan government fails to protect the fundamental rights of migrants and refugees, these human rights abuses are now being instrumentalized to justify a costly repatriation scheme.

In order to stress the urgency of the plan, Anke Strauss, head of the IOM mission on Morocco, stated that "Among the migrants are unaccompanied minors, pregnant women, women with children and others suffering from chronic illnesses who want to go home at any price".

Strauss's statement is misleading, as it makes the false impression that IOM protects vulnerable migrant groups, while this statements and such return schemes are in fact sanctioning human rights abuses and the lack of protection offered by the Moroccan government.

After all, isn't it the duty of the Moroccan government, the IOM and the European governments which have tended to fund such return programmes, to protect the human rights of such vulnerable group while they are on Moroccan soil? Morocco, a self-declared democracy, is signatory to most international human rights treaties, including the UN refugee charter, and is therefore bound to protect migrant and refugee rights.

The IOM may stress that such programmes are 'voluntary', but how long can this be maintained in the case of migrants who face abuse and systematic deprivation of their rights? These migrants are 'desperate' because they lack the most basic protection.

Despite its limited means, the Morocco mission of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Moroccan human rights activists such as Hicham Baraka have been doing heroic work to protect the rights of African migrants and refugees in Morocco, particularly to prevent their random arrest and deportation. These are examples that IOM should follow.

The unaccompanied minors, pregnant women, migrant women with young children and the chronically ill IOM pretends to care about should first of all be offered shelter, food, schooling and basic medical care in Morocco, before they can make a reasonable and 'voluntary' decision about their future.

But instead of pushing Morocco to protect the rights of African migrants, IOM seeks funds to 'help' the Moroccan government to send them back. How cynical can it get?  


  1. Comme en 2005, l'OIM joue au nettoyeur (référence aux bras cassés de la mafia napolitaine qui faisaient disparaitre les cadavres)

  2. This sounds like a misrepresentation of the programme IOM is running in Morocco IN CONJUNCTION with UNHCR and other agencies. Have you reached out to IOM for comment and more detailed info?

  3. On Tuesday, IOM launched an appeal for funding to help irregular migrants stranded in Morocco to help them return home and receive reintegration support, While Mr. De Haas has raised a number of valuable points, and IOM would like to provide the following clarification:
    The situation of irregular migrants in Morocco, as in all parts of the world, has always been challenging. However their life has recently become tougher as a result of the Moroccan government’s legitimate drive against crime. As a result, IOM and its partners, including UNHCR, MSF and Caritas have witnessed an increasing vulnerability of irregular migrants in Morocco as well as a sharp increase in the number of individuals requesting voluntary return and reintegration assistance

    As part of the UN Country team in Morocco, IOM works with the authorities towards longer-term solutions in line with the various human rights treaties that Morocco has ratified.

    The IOM’s call to fund an Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) programme has to be seen as complementary measure to the policy and advocacy response described above, which is implemented to provide a humanitarian response to the migrants’ immediate needs in the short-run. It is worthwhile noting that this IOM’s response is seen by the UN Country Team and civil society partners as being the best solution to the challenge of many migrants wanting to return home.

    Anke Strauss
    Chief of Mission
    IOM Morocco

  4. thanks you for this post… great information.
    Morocco Travel Agency

  5. Have you seen this?

    Call for papers for the 6th international conference on migration and development

  6. Have you seen this? Call for papers for the 6th international conference on migration and development


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