The standards for the protection of migrants in North Africa are proving to be weak, as a consequence of European migration policies which have been anchored in the southern shore of the Mediterranean. Dedicated largely to Morocco, a recent Oxfam study analyzes the situation.
In the Mediterranean region, migration policies “ignore the protection of migrants”, “respect for human rights” or even “the fact that development goes hand in hand with human mobility”. This is what emerges from a recent Oxfam study, devoted to approaches developed by the European Union with its neighbors to the south, particularly Morocco.
From this report, it also emerges, according to the NGO, that the EU would gain by “reversing the trend within the framework of the new pact on migration and asylum recently announced, as well as the design of its financial instruments in the years to come up”. Indeed and “despite some improvements” in Morocco, Oxfam deplores that “EU cooperation on migration with North Africa is based on a common interest, that of increased security at the borders which does not improve human rights”.
While these countries “must take responsibility for their own outdated and unreformed migration and asylum systems”, the NGO stresses that “comprehensive EU policies do little to encourage reform of these archaic policies”.
Border security at the expense of international protection
Stressing that the securing of maritime borders in Morocco obeys the imperative of the fight against terrorism, the protection of territorial integrity and the effort to combat drug trafficking, Oxfam considers that the treatment of the migration issue suffers from this approach, particularly in the context of cooperation with Spain. Indeed, this presence in the maritime domain also serves to “intercept migratory flows” towards Europe, in order to reduce arrivals at sea.
In this sense, the NGO points to securing the land borders with Ceuta and Melilla, “where multiple fences are equipped with high-tech surveillance systems”. In the region, “hot” expulsions have also been observed, within the framework of bilateral Moroccan-Spanish agreements. In fact, migrants who have been subjected to this practice are affected by a system which “does not include any guarantee enabling their eligibility for refugee status in Spain to be assessed”, according to Oxfam.
In addition, the association underlined the increase in the European budget allocated to this cooperation and which has made it possible to strengthen human and material resources for the control of migratory flows. In this register, the NGO notes the use of expulsions, or even escorts to the border between Morocco and Algeria, especially in the Saharan no-man’s land between the two countries.
Oxfam emphasizes that “countries have the right to control their own borders and access to their territories”, because of “legitimate concerns”. However, she believes that “emerging border control policies”, in Morocco as well as in Tunisia, “have been implemented with very little regard for the rights of migrants and refugees”.
Legal limits to the Immigration Strategy
Morocco “is the only country in the region to have a formally articulated vision of migration, embodied in its National Immigration and Asylum Strategy (SNIA),” Oxfam continues. The implementation of this legal tool was followed by two regularization campaigns for undocumented migrants, in 2014 and then in 2017. A first series of cards for refugees and asylum seekers was given to nearly 50,000 nationals, now allowed to enter the formal labor market.
The SNIA has also enabled the mobilization of EU financial aid to Morocco, in order to support integration programs and the development of national laws and practices. “Between 2014 and 2018, the EU allocated at least 232 million euros to Morocco (excluding regional cooperation projects), to capitalize on this momentum. In 2019, this cooperation was strengthened by an additional 389 million euros,” writes Oxfam.
“By providing this funding, the EU could have hoped that the environment in Morocco would become more hospitable for sub-Saharan migrants, dissuading them from continuing their journey to Europe, via the Mediterranean,” the NGO still observes. But this support “has yet to lead to a systematic reform of the immigration and asylum system,” according to Oxfam.
Indeed, the study indicates that “no real changes in the law have been made”. From a social and administrative standpoint, this makes it more difficult for regularized migrants to renew their residence permits and “complicates their access to essential services, including education and health”.
In the absence of reforms harmonized with the spirit of this strategy, “migration in Morocco is still regulated by law 02.03, which addresses it through a security perspective” without “defining ways of social and economic integration”, further indicates The report.