More than 900 Syrians have registered in Morocco as asylum seekers
The continuing tragedy of refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria extends across North Africa where hundreds have fled, often via human traffickers, to uncertain futures. According to a story in Al Jazeera last week, the number of 900 registered refugees “does not represent all the Syrian refugees in Morocco.”
In line with its new law regarding the treatment of illegal immigrants, Morocco has stepped up its efforts to provide them temporary group protection by working with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to register the refugees and shield them from detention, “even if they have entered or are staying on Moroccan soil illegally,” according to Marc Fawe, a spokesperson for UNHCR-Morocco.
Most of the refugees either come by boat or over land to Algeria, where they are left to their own devices to survive. One of the refugees explained that she had to leave Algeria due to the difficulty of establishing residency. “We could not stay on Algerian soil more than three months, and to stay longer, we had to leave the country and [come] back again.”
Their situation in Morocco is quite different as the country has recently adopted two ground-breaking laws regarding residency procedures for immigrants and means by which they can be integrated into Moroccan society. As reported in Magharebia, “The new initiative goes beyond residence permits; it provides newcomers with the means to assimilate into Moroccan society.” According to Migration Affairs Minister Anis Birou, “The policy comprises several strands, including the enrollment of immigrants’ children in schools, job training for adults, access to healthcare and learning darija. The aim is to equip migrants with all the tools they need to live peacefully as part of Moroccan society. Morocco must be an example in this respect.”
Aside from the global concern for the close to 4 million Syrian refugees worldwide from the current conflict, Moroccan citizens have also welcomed the practical and local impact of the policy. As a teacher in Rabat noted, the policy is part of efforts to respect human rights. She said to Magharebia, “Although their status is illegal, immigrants must have access to basic rights such as healthcare. I think no one can disagree with this strategy, which will enable thousands of people to live a dignified life in society, without fear or humiliation.”
Morocco’s position on the refugees reflects yet another progressive step in its comprehensive efforts to advance human rights throughout the country and North Africa.