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Morocco’s ‘radically new migration policy’ announced by King Mohammed VI in September 2013 was widely welcomed as an important symbolic break with the recent past. Even before the previous legislation, in 2003, and particularly in the last few years, Moroccan immigration policy had become mired in accusations of racism and abuse (Bachelet 2013). The security focused approach was harshly criticised in human rights terms as excessively violent and in geopolitical terms as simply responding to the diktats of the European Union – Morocco had become the ‘gendarme de l’Europe’ in one widely repeated phrase (Belguendouz 2003). The new, September 2013 policy approach was heralded as bringing refreshing change from this pattern, bringing a more humane focus, but also providing evidence of a more proactive stance, not simply responding to EU demands (Alioua 2013). This was particularly true of the regularisation of undocumented migrants that was announced in November 2013. More than any other element of the new policy, regularisation symbolised the desire to change. It also highlighted a willingness to develop policy not obviously aligned with EU priorities. The regularisation began in January 2014, yet, less than six months later the critique is surfacing again; the regularisation is limited, it will provide state authorities with the information to identify more undocumented migrants and it is simply the old security politics wrapped in a new discourse. This paper argues for a more hopeful analysis, based on a wider framing of immigration policy, seeing immigration in terms of of Abdelmalek Sayad’s celebrated analysis as ‘how the state thinks of itself’ (Sayad 1999, 6). This is not to deny the important human rights critique - it is true that Moroccan immigration policy, like that of many of its neighbours, often results in extremely harsh treatment of vulnerable migrants. Morocco has become the focus for much of this critique, not because it’s policy is unusually bad but because the activities of civil society and foreign researchers are unusually unrestricted and the environment is relatively unproblematic – certainly compared to Algeria, Libya or Egypt, where the treatment of migrants is almost certainly worse but there is a very limited evidence base on these issues.

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Conference paper


Moroccan migrations: Transformations, transitions and future prospects

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