After the Boats, Ladders

The Christian Science Monitor has a thoughtful, well-researched piece on the subject of immigration in Morocco. With as many as 10% of native-born Moroccans now living abroad, the country has come to rely on its diaspora for a significant portion of its hard currency income. What’s even more interesting is the kind of Moroccans who are leaving the country–not whom you might expect:

“Most of the people in Tarfaya dream of being somewhere else. That’s why they all have satellite dishes. They’re not watching Moroccan TV, they’re watching French and Spanish, aspiring to be somewhere else,” says [film director Daoud Oulad Syad] Mr. Syad.

The fact that so many Moroccans dream of leaving significantly threatens Morocco’s economic development, social well-being, and political stability. “Every year Morocco loses two to three percent of its GNP to brain drain,” says Lahlou. “Every year we lose between 3,000 and 5,000 professors, doctors, and engineers annually.”

This loss means fewer well-educated, ambitious citizens who could help lead their country. But there is an irony here, for if through emigration Morocco loses capital in some forms, it gains it through the money its emigrants send back to their families. Indeed, the International Monetary Fund reports that a full 9 percent of Morocco’s GNP comes from remittances – a percentage far greater than the 1.66 percent sent home by Mexicans working in the US.

In related news, hundreds of sub-Saharan immigrants, who had been biding their time in northern Morocco waiting for a good time to cross into Europe, simply decided to storm the Spanish presidio of Ceuta using ladders to scale the fences. A many as 500 scaled the walls at once.

This week’s mass assaults on the lower part of the fence may have been brought on by work to double its height to 20 feet along the 6-mile border, which is now nearing completion.

Spain has owned the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the northern coast of Morocco since the late 15th Century.

Morocco, which claims them, is struggling to deal with an influx of sub-Saharan Africans into its territory as well as curb its own citizens’ attempts to use sea routes to cross to Spain illegally.

It’s turning into a big, bloody mess, and Morocco appeals to not have either the resources or the power to deal with this. The situation has only worsened in the last two years. Spain is scrambling to reform its laws, the article says:

Sub-Saharan immigrants present Spain with a worse problem than Moroccans or Algerians, whom it simply sends back, because it often lacks repatriation agreements with their countries of origin.

Spain has such a deal with Nigeria, is negotiating with Ghana but is only in preliminary talks with Cameroon and Mali, from where many of the migrants come, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

Spain therefore often has no choice but to free these migrants, after handing them an expulsion order which the authorities cannot carry out.

So while the Moroccan government may be concerned about sub-Saharan immigrants in its territory, it can’t (or won’t) do much about Moroccans who decide to emigrate.