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University of Virginia

Publication Date

Fall 2008

Program Name

Morocco: Migration Studies


In order to understand the domestic matters of any country, it becomes necessary to not only engage in the workings of its internal structures, but to also examine how its relations with foreign powers are shaping its function as a state. As is the case with Morocco, the sub-Saharan immigration that has become of prime concern to many during recent years, due to a growing and universal fear of the ‘other’ as a threat to nationhood, has not only had an impact on Morocco as a country to this day, but also continues to shape Morocco for the future. This research aims to examine the ways in which Morocco’s foreign affairs, in terms of historical, political, and economic ties, have affected its domestic engagement with sub-Saharan immigration. Morocco’s relations with both the European Union and Algeria have had a profound impact on Morocco’s ability as a state to cope with the relatively new phenomenon of sub-Saharan immigration, and due to Morocco’s weak institutional capacity, has further challenged Morocco in its development into a nation-state.

In order to conduct my research, I began by visiting the town of Oujda, located at the Algerian border through which the majority of immigrants pass; it is here that sub-Saharan immigrants are installed in camps. I contacted a law professor at the Oujda University, who had written much on my area of interest and was furthermore involved with the Moroccan Organization of Human Rights. Professor Amarti was incredibly helpful to me from the moment I arrived in Oujda, from informing me as to the workings of his organizations, to familiarizing me with the town of Oujda. I also contacted Hicham Baraka, president and of the Moroccan NGO ABCDS, who informed me that due to the tight security crack-down within Oujda, it would be difficult for him to host me for a short internship in his office. In thanking him for his response, I wrote that I would be traveling to Oujda even so, and that I would greatly appreciate even ten minutes to speak with him. When I arrived in Oujda, Baraka called me to offer his help with my research. The remainder of my stay in Oujda surpassed all of my expectations due to his hospitality and willingness to physically show me the plight of sub-Saharans at this closed border, and the tense situation that presently exists here. Concerning my methods of research when I returned to Rabat, I did my best to talk with as many people I could and make contact with immigrants themselves, as well as association leaders and members. The interviews I conducted took place in Rabat’s administration buildings, cafes, and parks (in some cases, the only place where talk with an immigrant without papers would not compromise his situation), as well as the poorest neighborhoods and the homes of these immigrants. I did not include the true identity of certain people in my final paper, as some of those I spoke are presently living in illegal, vulnerable, or compromising situations within Morocco. Though these persons’ names have been changed, their accounts remain untouched.

The hospitality and openness I received in Oujda was similar to what I met in Rabat. My research in Rabat could not have been accomplished without the willingness of all of those who helped me in this Independent Study Project—be they my advisor, members of non-governmental organizations, association, leaders and members, or refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants themselves. These people not only helped me to expand my knowledge of the subject, but also taught me the utmost generosity. I will forget neither the time, effort, and energy of those who helped, nor the willingness of certain individuals to share stories that are in some cases no easy feat to recount to anyone, much less a complete stranger. To these people, I am truly grateful.

There are without a doubt some obstacles that I encountered during my research period. The first of these was the boundary of time that existed to complete this project. While a month appears to be a significant amount of time for such a project, I found that the logistics involved and time needed during field research limited my study’s scope. As a result of the time constraint, I was not able to research all of the aspects of sub-Saharan immigration as I would have liked to. Immigrants in Morocco possessing legal papers do hold a presence among Moroccan society, and confront difficulties in regards to working, discrimination, and establishing identity here that are worthy topics of research. I came to the conclusion, however, that I would focus solely on the illegal immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees, as these groups of people best pertain to my thesis. Another obstacle that I encountered was remaining completely neutral in the writing of this report. I found it rather difficult in conducting my research, to not slant my opinions on the behalf of the immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees I spoke with. The conditions in which they live are by no means easy, and as a human being, I could not help but feel for their desperate situations, while maintaining the perspective of a researcher. With this perspective, I was not limited to recognizing the gravity and frequency of the human rights violations that take place within Morocco as a result of external pressures. This perspective allowed me acknowledge that while Morocco does not possess strong institutions to improve the present situation, the ability to make influential changes in Morocco rests in the mind of each and every Moroccan who even considers briefly the issues that surround sub-Saharan migration into Morocco.


Demography, Population, and Ecology


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