By Claudia Mende |
Morocco officially declared itself a country of immigration in 2013, responding to the growing number of immigrants arriving from sub-Saharan Africa. Since then, tens of thousands of illegal aliens have been given residence permits, making them legal residents of the country. Despite this progress, however, Morocco’s immigration policies remain inconsistent, and society has yet to truly accept the newcomers.
Christopher Agbaye and Gargar Barchure left their home country of Liberia five years ago. Their odyssey took them through Mali and Algeria and finally to Morocco. From there they had hoped to reach Europe. But it didn’t work out. “We were arrested twice by the Moroccan police,” says Agbaye, a 40-year-old medical technician. The travails of the flight engraved deep lines in his face. “On our third attempt, the traffickers just took off with the money.” He has an injured leg and needs surgery. “It wasn’t possible to make the crossing. So now we have to stay here.”
Like the two men from Liberia, migrants from sub-Saharan Africa have long regarded Morocco as a mere transit country. No one planned to stay here. But as Europe continues to bar its doors, more and more Africans are forced to accept the prospect of a life in Morocco.
Nobody knows exactly how many immigrants live in Morocco today. Some estimates put the number at around 70,000, including people from Guinea, the Ivory Coast, Senegal, Nigeria, Togo, Cameroon and South Sudan, as well as about 4,000 to 5,000 refugees from Syria and Yemen. Syrians and Yemenis can obtain refugee status from the UNHCR and hence financial aid. Christopher Agbaye and Gargar Barchure applied for refugee status too, but the UNHCR rejected their claim.