The ongoing issue of immigration from North Africa to Europe, particularly to southern EU countries, has been a story – an often tragic one – for a number of years now. Morocco has continued to work unilaterally and in partnership with the EU to seek solutions.
Although numbers involved are sometimes difficult to comprehend, these are human tragedies in the making. Nowhere is this seen more starkly than for those children who find themselves – through no fault of their own – in a foreign land, without their parents.
It is important that such children are able to find their way home to safety, which is why cooperation mechanisms have been put in place with a number of countries – particularly in the southern EU states of Spain and France – to ease this process of repatriation, allowing unaccompanied minors of Moroccan extraction to quickly find their way home.
His Majesty the King had stressed the clear and firm commitment of the Kingdom of Morocco to accept the return of duly identified unaccompanied minors. A communiqué from the Moroccan Ministries of the Interior and of Foreign Affairs, African Cooperation, and Moroccans Abroad said that the country’s position on this has been made clear to Heads of Foreign State on a number of occasions.
Yet in spite of this unequivocal support from His Majesty, there have been repeated delays in ensuring the mechanisms work effectively and in a timely fashion. Many of the implementation problems lie in the densely bureaucratic nature of the administrative and judicial procedures in some of the European countries involved.
The Moroccan government, however, is understandably keen to dispel this unfortunate and ill-founded perception. It stands ready – as ever – to work with the European Member States and the European Union to resolve the issue.
The communiqué expressed the sincere hope that the procedural challenges could be overcome with the correct will and ensure that these unfortunate unaccompanied minors would soon be able to come home.
However, the Moroccan government was also keen to point out that the EU countries should not use the issue as a smokescreen for their own problems. In particular, there was a concern that Spain was using the issue to divert attention from its own national political crisis.
The communiqué said that the Moroccan authorities would respond appropriately to the unfounded accusations by the Spanish government as and when it felt it was appropriate.
Given the current concerns, it is important to remember that the Kingdom of Morocco has already invested considerably – to the tune of several billion euros – in reinforcing its border control efforts; this is tenfold the level of recent aid received from the EU.
This has allowed the country to act to neutralize many cross-border threats, including terrorism, jihadists, and foreign fighters as well as drugs, arms, and contraband trafficking.
In addition – in the all-important area of migration control – Morocco’s contribution to regional security has been impressive; blocking more than 14,000 attempts to migrate irregularly to Europe and rescuing some 36,000 migrants from the Straits of Gibraltar.
It has also dismantled 8000 human trafficking cells and exchanged more than 9000 items of information with Spain on irregular migration activities.
In addition, Morocco has taken a leadership role in addressing migration issues in Africa; on a continental level, His Majesty the King has been appointed as African champion in migration issues.
In addition, the creation of the African Migration Observatory, in partnership with the AU, is a clear manifestation of how the country is stepping up to take responsibility. The aim of the Observatory is to provide an Africa-oriented, international platform capable of providing reliable and precise data on migration in the continent.
It will also serve as a basis for discussing realistic, effective policies to address the challenge. Indeed, this has already seen a ‘Global Compact’ held in Marrakesh in late 2018, which discussed topics including how to encourage conventional migration and protect migrants’ rights.
Morocco’s unrivaled efforts in this area should act as a demonstration of its commitment to seeking solutions with a global, multidimensional, multicultural, and strategic perspective.
The country has already carried cooperation, both inside Africa and with the EU to their current advanced levels.
Morocco believes in the value of mutually beneficial partnership; pursuing convergent views on common challenges, threats and issues are the most likely to deliver mutually beneficial outcomes.
The EU welcomed Morocco’s decision to settle the issue of unaccompanied minors in Europe with the MAP News Agency reporting an EEAS spokesperson saying on Tuesday 8 June, “The EU welcomes the decision of Morocco to facilitate the re-entry of unaccompanied and duly identified Moroccan minors. We hope this decision can be effectively implemented while ensuring the best interest of the child”.
The spokesperson added, “for years, the EU and Morocco have had an excellent cooperation on migration, leading to very good results. We remain confident that this fruitful collaboration can be preserved”.
“Morocco is an important partner for the EU and one of our closest neighbors, We will continue our close cooperation with Rabat to address our common challenges and advance our bilateral partnership, to our mutual benefit”.