Institutional ReformsResearchGovernance of Irregular Migration in Morocco: Achievements and Expectations

Morocco has achieved substantial progress in the governance of migration, demonstrating advancements in aligning with international commitments and adapting to global transformations aimed at humanizing its policies and legislation. Nevertheless, legal and administrative obstacles continue to constrain the further enhancement of this governance.
Mouna Dalouh Mouna Dalouh22/07/2024195106 min
Morocco has achieved substantial progress in the governance of migration, demonstrating advancements in aligning with international commitments and adapting to global transformations aimed at humanizing its policies and legislation. Nevertheless, legal and administrative obstacles continue to constrain the further enhancement of this governance.
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Recent international developments underscore that Morocco has been significantly influenced by the evolving dynamics of migration. The country has notably transitioned from being a source region to serving as both a transit and destination area, primarily due to its strategic location a mere 14 kilometers from the northern Mediterranean shore. For decades, Morocco has been a nexus for successive waves of migrants, particularly from sub-Saharan African nations. These migrations have been propelled by political instability resulting from wars and internal conflicts, fragile socio-economic conditions, and environmental and climatic disasters, leading to the emergence of a new category of environmental migrants and refugees. These factors collectively underscore Morocco’s integral role in the global phenomenon of human mobility.[1]
Irregular migration issues have intensified with the changing sources, geographical routes, and border-crossing methods, which have drawn the attention of the international community as a whole. Morocco has not been exempt from the severity and challenges of this phenomenon. This has positioned Morocco as a bold model in adopting systematic policies aimed at the comprehensive and rights-based governance of irregular migration, guided by the directives of the royal institution and involving all relevant official and non-official stakeholders. Notable among these policies is the National Strategy for Immigration and Asylum of 2014, followed by reforms aimed at modernizing the legal and institutional framework in this regard. However, despite these efforts, achieving effective management of irregular migration in accordance with humanitarian standards remains an ambiguous aspiration due to numerous challenges and variables that exacerbate the difficulties in this field. Therefore, what are the possible approaches to enhance the governance of irregular migration in Morocco in light of the current constraints?


Contexts of the Evolution of Irregular Migration Governance in Morocco

The first features of migration governance in Morocco emerged with the adoption of Law 02-03 in 2003[2]. This law has since become outdated in light of current developments and was originally influenced by security concerns following the terrorist events of April 11, 2001, and May 16, 2003[3]. These events necessitated a link between combating irregular migration and terrorism, resulting in a law that was heavily shaped by security considerations, which adversely affected the fundamental rights of irregular migrants. One of the most significant restrictions was the requirement for legal residency documents to access basic public services[4].

Following Law 02-03, Morocco did not implement any substantial measures or public policies concerning irregular migration, apart from some partial responses such as the 2007 agreement with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for refugee management[5], and the April 2010 decree to implement the aforementioned law[6]. The 2011 Constitution marked a significant shift, dedicating an entire chapter to rights and freedoms, including the right to movement in Article 24. Moreover, the preamble affirmed the supremacy of international agreements and their alignment with national legislation.
In the context of constitutional vision, Morocco emphasized, within the framework of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework 2012-2016, socio-economic development and the reduction of disparities. This included ensuring equitable distribution of development gains across all population groups, including migrants within and outside the country, and expanding access to quality social services[7]. Subsequently, the thematic report on the situation of migrants and refugees in Morocco, prepared by the National Human Rights Council, called for the adoption of a national strategy on migration and asylum in 2013. This strategy aims to manage mixed flows of irregular migrants, especially from sub-Saharan Africa, within a framework that enhances Morocco’s credibility in advancing human rights. This priority is consistently emphasized by the Royal Institution for Migration in various national and international speeches and events, such as the address delivered at the 5+5 Summit in Tunis in 2013. The discourse highlighted the interconnected challenges arising from economic conditions and their negative impacts, stressing that no single country or shore can address them alone. Similarly, His Majesty’s speech at the 28th African Union Summit recommended strengthening the humanitarian dimension in managing African migration flows within a balanced framework of realism and tolerance[8].

Moreover, Morocco accelerated its efforts to collaborate with various initiatives, such as the African Migration and Development Initiative presented to the United Nations General Assembly, under a shared regional responsibility[9]. Additionally, the National Action Plan on Democracy and Human Rights 2018-2021 aimed to integrate migration issues into Moroccan public policies, previously defined between 2012-2016[10].

Consequently, migration governance faced significant challenges due to the increasing costs of management. Morocco hosted approximately 102,358 migrants across various age groups in 2020, constituting 0.3% of the total population[11]. According to the High Commission for Planning’s report on migration in 2021, more than one-third of migrants in Morocco, approximately 36.6%, were in irregular situations, totaling 3,000 individuals (men and women) sampled for the report[12]. By 2023, the number of irregular migrants recorded reached 75,000[13], mostly originating from countries in West and Central Africa south of the Sahara, such as Nigeria and Congo[14]. This influx was driven by instability resulting from internal conflicts and violence involving groups like the Tuaregs and the Nigerian and Malian armies, alongside extremist movements exacerbating instability. These factors have been significant drivers prompting thousands to seek refuge in neighboring countries. Economic conditions such as unemployment, poverty, and environmental crises like desertification and droughts have also affected wide areas of African Sahel countries[15].

Turning to the latest findings from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), the report reveals a notable 41.6% surge in irregular migration across Mediterranean sea routes by 2018[16], contrasting with a 4% increase in such movements towards Europe via both land and sea routes across the Western Mediterranean since 2008[17]. Most of these migrants originated from sub-Saharan Africa, making their way through Morocco. The toll on human lives has been staggering, with fatalities accounting for 33.76%[18]. In 2022 alone, the death toll reached 3,789, with over half of these occurring in the Middle East and North Africa region, including Morocco, which reported 13 deaths in the same year. These figures come from a report published on the official website of the International Organization for Migration[19]. Looking ahead to 2023, the situation remained dire, with 144 deaths recorded along the Mediterranean route between North Africa and Southern Europe[20], intensifying pressures on Morocco to adopt a more humanitarian approach rather than security-focused policies in addressing the challenges of irregular migration.
Thousands of kilometers are traversed by migrants across the Sahara Desert, exposing them to risks such as death from hunger or thirst, getting lost in the vast expanse, or severe overcrowding leading to injuries or fatalities[21]. Additionally, migrants face significant dangers when crossing to the other shore in small rubber boats, including capsizing, getting lost, or failing to reach their intended destinations. Beyond these physical dangers, they also endure violence and other violations of their dignity. Numerous inhumane practices have been documented, including violent clashes between law enforcement officers and groups of irregular migrants from sub-Saharan Africa who breached the outer gate of their shelter during the COVID-19 lockdown[22].
Additionally, tear gas canisters have been launched at migrants in enclosed spaces by security forces, and they have been forcibly transported in buses without their consent to other cities, deprived of medical assistance without consideration for established humanitarian standards, according to the Amnesty International report of 2022-2023[23]. These actions fall under the category of violations such as discrimination, arbitrary detention, and improper use of force[24]. In this context, the Moroccan Organization for Human Rights has recommended treating irregular migrants with dignity, avoiding their detention in illegal centers[25], and prohibiting violence and racial discrimination in accordance with international commitments such as the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, as per the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review of 2022[26].

Despite the stringent and strict land borders between Morocco and Algeria, a significant number of irregular migrants cross daily with the assistance of specialized criminal networks. The cost of smuggling children from sub-Saharan regions via the Morocco-Spain route, or through Algeria and Mauritania, is estimated to range between $10,000 and $20,000, while for women and men it is $50,000, making these areas a hub for human trafficking, recruitment centers for armed conflicts, arms and drug smuggling, and accumulating millions of dollars annually benefiting human traffickers in the region[27]. Thus, this phenomenon requires a practical approach to enhance the capabilities of border institutions, both land and sea, including human resources like gendarmerie and auxiliary forces, and the technical and technological aspects by supporting monitoring devices to better analyze, characterize, and control human movements, thereby improving migration governance and strengthening regional cooperation mechanisms with all agencies, such as the European Border and Coast Guard Agency.

Achievements of Morocco’s Policy on Irregular Migration

Morocco has achieved significant gains in various fields, enabling it to expand its investments and strategic relations with numerous African and European countries such as Spain and France, especially after the restoration of relations following the recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara. Furthermore, the inauguration of several foreign consulates in the southern region has highlighted Morocco’s strength and strategic position in safeguarding its political, security, and economic interests, with migration being one of the key areas targeted. Morocco has implemented a range of national measures and policies aimed at managing irregular migration flows within its territory by establishing a new public policy approach with a human rights perspective. This is reflected in the National Strategy for Immigration and Asylum, which is based on the directives of the King, the recommendations of the National Human Rights Council, the 2011 Moroccan Constitution, and relevant international human rights agreements. The strategy’s methodology is centered on key priorities, primarily the humanitarian aspect to uphold human rights, combat discrimination, and human trafficking, followed by integration and foreign policy, as well as economic, social, and cultural challenges. Its implementation has undergone several fundamental stages: the King was briefed on the thematic report on the situation of migration and asylum in Morocco in September 2013, the establishment of a sector dedicated to this issue on October 10, 2013, the official announcement of the regularization process on November 11, 2013, and the presentation and approval of the strategy on December 19, 2014[28].

The strategy facilitated the regularization of the status of 50,000 migrants over two phases from 2014 to 2017, followed by the opening of financial assistance from the European Union to support integration programs and migration management policies[29]. During the period from 2014 to 2018, Morocco received €232 million in grants, predominantly allocated as follows: €92.8 million for border management and mobility, €77.3 million for combating migrant smuggling and human trafficking, €10.1 million for social and economic integration, €28.5 million for governance of migration policies and institutional support, and €23.1 million for migrant protection and rights. In addition, to support the National Strategy on Migration and Asylum, Morocco obtained an additional €148 million from the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF Africa) in 2018. This funding was earmarked to enhance the capabilities of Moroccan security forces in border management, combatting migrant smuggling and human trafficking, and assisting in the protection of vulnerable migrants[30], reaching approximately €389 million by 2019 within the context of developments since 2008[31].

To implement the objectives of the national strategy, several projects were initiated to enhance access to fundamental rights for irregular migrants, such as access to healthcare. By 2020, the number of beneficiaries exceeded 30,000 individuals, receiving medical examinations, purchasing medications, and consultations with specialized doctors. Additionally, psychological and social assistance was provided to 1,225 beneficiaries, half of whom were women, with support from both the International Organization for Migration and local authorities[32]. This effort was complemented by a strategic plan on health and migration (2021-2025) adopted by the responsible ministry.

In terms of employment, 680 migrants were registered in the ANAPEC information system. Among them, 189 participated in job search workshops, comprising both men and women. Additionally, 20 migrants, including 6 women and 14 men, were successfully integrated into the labor market. Furthermore, 5 migrants benefited from subsidized contracts as part of the ‘AMUDDU[33]‘ project during the year 2020[34]. Regarding vocational training, 24 migrants were enrolled in training centers managed by the Office of Vocational Training and Employment Promotion during 2020-2021. Fifteen successful candidates obtained their certificates. Moreover, 51 migrants were enrolled in qualification training and 58 in vocational training. Under the ‘AMUDDU’ project, 85 training grants were awarded to eligible migrants during the same period[35]. The right to education also saw 3,531 students enrolled across various educational programs, including non-formal education, during the academic year 2020-2021.

In legislative terms, Morocco has drafted several bills, including the new Migration Law 17-72, in line with the ratification of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families in 1993, and the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. Additionally, Morocco endorsed the Second Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime on trafficking in persons in 2011[36]. This led to the adoption of Law 14-27 on trafficking in persons in 2016 and its implementing decree in 2018, criminalizing various forms of human trafficking, including migrant smuggling[37].

Aligning with the review of some laws across sectors to facilitate migrants’ access to public services, particularly labor, citizenship, and participation in elections[38], Morocco has committed to its path of ratifying major human rights conventions, including those issued by the International Labour Organization, such as International Convention No. 143 concerning Migrant Workers in 2016.

In adapting to the organized framework of migrant rights, Morocco has also joined numerous initiatives. Notably, the African Agenda on Migration presented by the King at the 30th African Union Summit in January 2018 and the African Union Agenda 2063, titled ‘The Africa We Want,’ adopted on January 31, 2015, under the Continental Integration Program. Morocco further committed to the Paris Agreement on climate change to hold parties accountable for their commitments related to migrants, as well as the Rabat Appeal issued in October 2018[39].

Moreover, Morocco developed Law No. 19-01 in December 2018 to establish the headquarters of the African Observatory on Migration in Rabat, aiming to integrate with continental initiatives on migration to address associated challenges. Morocco also co-chaired the Global Forum on Migration and Development with Germany in Marrakech in 2018 ([40])[40] and endorsed the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration, with ongoing implementation dialogues. In January 2023, the International Organization for Migration and the Moroccan government organized an event in Rabat to enhance peer learning initiatives in preparation for the upcoming round of regional reviews of the Global Compact scheduled for 2024[41]. These efforts are part of Morocco’s governance of migration and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, as an international commitment.

Institutionally, the national strategy has been implemented through three peak bodies. The first is the Ministerial Committee for Moroccan Expatriates and Migration Affairs, composed of the Prime Minister, relevant ministers, the National Human Rights Council, and other constitutional institutions. This committee is responsible for overseeing and horizontally arbitrating the strategy by providing various means. Following this, the Steering Committee coordinates and supervises the programs. It includes the Minister in charge of Moroccan Expatriates and Migration Affairs as its head, senior officials from partner ministries, the Ministerial Delegation for Human Rights, and the National Human Rights Council. Additionally, there are three subcommittees covering various sectors: the Education, Culture, and Recreation Committee; the Employment and Vocational Training Committee; and the Horizontal Programs Committee, which targets areas such as managing migration flows, combating human trafficking, international cooperation and partnerships, governance, and communication. These subcommittees are responsible for monitoring program progress, structuring key data, and arbitrating accordingly. Their structure includes the Director of Migration Affairs, representatives from relevant ministries, international partners, and specialists and civil society representatives as needed[42].

In the same context, the significant role played by national institutions through their reports and recommendations on migration cannot be overlooked. For instance, the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (ESEC) has outlined proposals for integrating migrants by providing decent work and access to essential services. Similarly, the National Human Rights Council (CNDH) monitors and reports on inhumane practices faced by foreigners in the kingdom, such as racism and discrimination in accessing their basic rights. Additionally, there are ongoing consultations aimed at adopting legislative projects related to migration (Law 17-72) and asylum (Law 17-66), which require updating before being introduced into the legislative process. This approach takes into account constitutional guarantees and international standards, such as the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration[43]. Moreover, civil society organizations work in coordination and cooperation with various stakeholders. For example, Caritas Morocco assists in integrating migrant children into public schools[44], while the Moroccan Center for Youth and Democratic Transitions developed a program that resulted in a guide for integrating Sub-Saharan African migrants into education, health, and employment sectors during 2017 and 2018[45].


Challenges in Managing Irregular Migration Flows in Morocco

Despite the gains Morocco has made in the governance of irregular migration, several challenges persist. Morocco has become a permanent destination for African, Syrian, and Yemeni migrants, who are fleeing wars and internal conflicts. This makes it difficult to collect up-to-date data on migrants due to inconsistent sources[46]. Migrant groups often consist of individuals beyond just single persons, including youth, various other demographics, minors, and pregnant women, driven by social and economic issues such as unemployment, low living standards, and inadequate services. These factors have intensified the issue, complicating governance and management efforts, and exacerbating the impacts in both developed and developing countries, despite coordinated efforts to tighten border controls and impose various measures and restrictions related to bilateral and multilateral security cooperation among affected countries[47].

On another front, migrants face social and institutional discrimination, especially female migrants due to their legal status and lack of passports, which aggravates gender biases in accessing services. Approximately 38 percent of these women are employed in precarious domestic work, characterized by weak regulations between employers and migrant workers[48]. Additionally, forced eviction and illegal expulsion by security authorities are common, with 6 percent of migrants being forcibly returned to their home countries[49]. These actions often render some of the legislative and policy measures inhumane, depriving migrants of their human rights, despite the humanitarian approach emphasized in Moroccan migration policy.

Consequently, the flows of irregular migration sometimes lead to discrepancies and imbalances in adopting human rights-based approaches that link migration with the right to mobility and development, as well as conservative policies that prioritize state sovereignty and border control in managing the movement of migrants, especially at the European level. This is due to the deteriorating situations in some Sahel countries, such as Mali and Nigeria, which are experiencing instability caused by ethnic and sectarian conflicts, giving rise to entities like the Greater Tuareg. Furthermore, the crisis in Libya, which escalated after the collapse of the regime in 2011, has taken on regional dimensions, affecting the Sahel region and demonstrating the strategic interconnectedness of threats among neighboring areas[50]. These dynamics impact the stability of populations, driving them into a cycle of seeking security and general peace, moving towards a better future by any means, legal or illegal, across nearby borders to the other side.

Moreover, with the ongoing deterioration of security and political conditions in the Sahel region, and the violent and inhumane practices along the migration routes in Libya[51], coupled with the stringent restrictions and difficulties in obtaining visas or residence permits for legal entry, irregular migration movements are set to increase, along with the development of associated criminal networks. This scenario positions Morocco as the third-largest country of origin for irregular migrants heading to Europe.

Additionally, migration negotiations between countries often extend beyond mere management, encompassing various leverage issues. Morocco, for instance, used migration as a tool of influence during the Ceuta crisis in 2021, protesting Spain’s decision to host the leader of the Polisario Front for medical treatment. This led to the crossing of 10,000 irregular migrants into Ceuta[52]. In response, Spain acknowledged that the leader, Brahim Ghali, faced legal proceedings and must be tried before leaving Spain. This crisis ultimately led to Spain and other countries recognizing Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara, turning irregular migration into a strategic card for balancing conflicts. This resulted in positive outcomes, resolving the crisis, and resuming and enhancing bilateral cooperation between Morocco and Spain across various political, security, economic, and social domains. This includes the governance of irregular migration flows, combating terrorism and extremism, and fostering economic and commercial investments[53].


Challenges and Pathways to Enhancing the Governance of Irregular Migration

Despite the various approaches and visions aimed at solidifying migration governance in Morocco, the management of irregular migration continues to face numerous challenges. Addressing these issues requires further refinement and modernization to improve and review existing measures. This can be achieved through several key points:

Legislative Approach

Human rights are universal, indivisible, and should be extended to all individuals regardless of their nationality, religion, or legal status, as per international agreements. This is especially pertinent when considering the phrase “any other status” as it appears in international and regional human rights laws, which targets individuals in difficult situations, including irregular migrants. However, there is a distinction between the political rights of citizens and the fundamental rights that cannot be violated under any circumstances, as stated in Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights[54]. These guarantees require adaptation and consideration, whether in the 2003 law, which is still in effect despite its procedures and provisions being outdated, especially its use of terms that belittle this group such as “illegal,” or in the draft law No. 17-72, outlined in the 2017 legislative plan before being enacted. The legal language demands purification from all expressions that imply criminality and dehumanize migrants, as no person can be illegal.

Furthermore, it is essential to introduce provisions aimed at simplifying procedures for obtaining necessary documents such as renewing residency permits, granting permits to newborns, and ensuring access to public services for foreigners, including irregular migrants. These measures are crucial to avoid violations resulting from their deportation and detention, aligning with the objectives of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration[55].

Additionally, there is ongoing debate concerning Article 4 and several other provisions of Law 02-03 regarding the concept of public security threat. This necessitates attention and a precise definition, as its vague nature opens the door to arbitrariness and abuse of authority, as highlighted by anti-racism groups advocating for the rights of foreigners and migrants[56].

Furthermore, it is imperative to update the provisions of Article 6 of the Anti-Trafficking Law No. 27-14, which fails to distinguish between smuggling and trafficking, leading to confusion. It is also crucial to activate procedures for identifying victims, especially when it comes to irregular migrants who are highly vulnerable to punishment and re-trafficking. This affects the adaptation of actions, as each case requires different procedures for prosecution, investigation, and protection[57].

Legislatively, the Moroccan legislator must implement and enforce certain provisions prohibiting discrimination as outlined in Article 23, such as discrimination in enjoying economic and social rights for migrants, particularly the right to adequate housing, education, training, and health care. Currently, these rights are restricted to Moroccan citizens under Article 31. Achieving these goals would signify progress towards health and education objectives aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by countries worldwide in 2015[58].

Similarly, in some sectors, laws restrict irregular migrants and their children from accessing health services, such as Law 22-06 issued in December 2022 concerning the national health system. Despite Articles 4 and 6 ensuring equality in accessing health services and combating discrimination, these provisions apply only to citizens. This contradicts Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which extensively recognizes the right of the child to the highest attainable standard of health[59], and the right to basic and free education for all, conflicting with Article 1 of Law 04-00, which requires Moroccan citizenship[60]. Therefore, the legislator must update these provisions in accordance with the standards set forth in Article 28 of the same convention and other international human rights instruments that are binding for implementation.

Institutional Approach:

 There exists a set of mechanisms established to manage irregular migration, with the Ministerial Committee for Moroccan Expatriates and Migration Affairs being pivotal. This committee, incorporating various partner ministries and constitutional institutions such as the National Human Rights Council, operates within a framework of cooperation and coordination with other bodies like the Steering Committee or sectoral committees. These include governmental institutions, officials, and experts, aimed at implementing the national policy adopted in 2014 on migration and asylum. Efforts are ongoing to strengthen these entities through renewal and updating to align with Morocco’s evolving policy directions amidst current transformations and challenges. Additionally, efforts focus on realizing the goals of the African Migration Observatory launched in 2020, which entails developing effective, transparent, and practical policies and programs through unified quantitative and qualitative migration data sources. This includes supporting initiatives across Africa, including the Continental Operational Center in Khartoum for combating irregular migration, national statistical offices, and migration data centers within and beyond Africa[61].

Moreover, there have been interruptions, such as those experienced at the stateless persons’ bureau within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or the Joint Committee dedicated to managing and regularizing the status of irregular foreigners. Additionally, inadequate coordination among stakeholders and inconsistent allocation of responsibilities between central bodies and local authorities have negatively impacted migrants’ rights and organizational stability. These issues underscore the imperative to reorganize and capacitate such institutions in accordance with contemporary requirements.

Policy Approach:

With the significant developments witnessed around the world, Morocco is attempting to draw new, humane policy directions based on positive and comprehensive cooperation with neighboring countries such as Spain, especially after its recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over the Sahara. This support has materialized in significant financial aid for various programs related to the governance of irregular migration flows and their integration into essential sectoral policies like education, health, housing, and employment. Additionally, there is financial support allocated to border institutions, amounting to approximately 300 million euros up to the year 2023[62]. This is based on the national strategy for migration and asylum, whose implementation stalled after 2017, despite the exceptional opportunities it provided at the time. These included regularizing the legal status of African migrants and integrating them into education, training, and housing programs.

This has led to debates about whether the strategy was effective enough or if it ended with the conclusion of the exceptional circumstances. Notably, between 2018 and 2023, the number of irregular migrants not included in official statistics increased, as Moroccan authorities did not open new regularization processes to meet the basic rights and needs of over 50,000 people. Furthermore, it did not encompass all foreigners, with nearly two-thirds of migrants and refugees unaware of the campaigns carried out by the government under this strategy[63]. This highlights the limited impact of this policy and its shortcomings, both in terms of inconsistency between Moroccans and foreigners and the decline of regional and provincial programs aimed at upholding and respecting the rights of these groups.

Based on this, there is a need for a radical review and update of this policy, whether in its approach and governance that did not encompass all irregular migrants during the implementation of the strategy as expected, or by creating new opportunities as outlined by the policy’s objectives. This includes updating the legal and institutional framework and benefiting from all economic, social, and cultural sectoral programs, or establishing a new, advanced work policy that incorporates all developments and changes that have affected the governance of irregular migration. This includes considering the new risks and challenges related to displacement and migration due to climatic and environmental reasons.

Notably, the World Bank’s 2021 report indicated that climate change could force around 216 million people in six regions of the world to move within their countries by 2050, with North Africa representing 19.3% of the total population[64]. Additionally, climate change transformations could lead to the migration of up to 1.9 million Moroccans, or about 5.4% of the total population, to more stable areas, according to its 2022 report[65]. Natural disasters and global warming are primary causes of the displacement witnessed worldwide[66]. Moreover, pressures from drought, rising temperatures, and exacerbated flooding threaten nature and human stability in terms of food, water, and social security, posing significant concerns and challenges for Morocco in the current era[67].

Furthermore, it is essential to link the work project to be implemented primarily with developmental goals and to base it on all related developmental commitments and initiatives, such as the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals plan[68].

Operational Approach:

It is essential to adopt indicators and mechanisms such as the Migration Governance Framework (MIGOF) developed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to evaluate and monitor all implemented strategies. This is necessary to update security policies criminalizing irregular migration with a more humane approach. Migrants are often exploited by human traffickers; hence, criminalization should target the traffickers, not the migrants themselves. If otherwise, such actions should be considered administrative violations rather than criminal acts[69], leading to the denial of migrants’ fundamental human rights. This sentiment was expressed in General Assembly Resolution 72/179 in 2019[70]. Migration has never been a crime despite attempts to portray it as such; it is one of the most intrinsic human phenomena. The real criminal and inhumane acts are the policies adopted by states against migrants[71].

Additionally, racism and stereotypes hinder the process of coexistence and integration within society. Their prevalence exacerbates negative discourse and legitimizes the criminalization of migrants, leading to discrimination and mistreatment even in difficult circumstances[72].

Furthermore, it is imperative to establish a migration observatory under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to update data on the number of irregular migrants in Morocco, which has become outdated and hinders the production of accurate national reports[73]. This observatory should comprise actors and specialists from all relevant sectors. Moreover, some migration policies fail to consider gender perspectives, showing weakness in addressing all forms of discrimination against migrant women. The financial framework allocated by Morocco in its relations with partners for managing and governing migration should not be limited to border surveillance and control. It must encompass all dimensions to achieve effective, humane governance, including the regulations and procedures followed in this regard.



In light of the challenges and stakes associated with migration, Morocco has made significant strides in the governance of migration and in adapting its policies and laws to align with international commitments and transformations that humanize these frameworks continentally. This includes the development of both legal and institutional frameworks. However, there remain constraints that hinder the advancement of this governance, particularly legal and operational ones. To mitigate these issues, we recommend the following:

Improvement of the Normative and Legislative Framework: Eliminate incorrect terms that criminalize irregular migrants in Morocco’s legal framework governing migration, ensuring compliance with international law, which necessitates humane and organized migration based on evidence as per the Migration Governance Framework of 2015 and the African Union Migration Policy Framework for 2018-2030.

Incorporation of a Comprehensive Humanitarian Dimension: Address irregular migration as a movement resulting from economic, social, environmental, and health instability that threatens human security. This approach should balance the needs of the country’s internal security with the humanitarian needs of migrants.

Establishment of a Regulatory Framework for Irregular Migration: Create a comprehensive law governing irregular migration in Morocco, as part of the broader legal arsenal on migration, adhering to the recommendations from both national bodies such as the National Council for Human Rights and international organizations like the International Organization for Migration, and relevant regional human rights organizations.

Updating Migration Law Project 17-72: Revise it with new supports that address current challenges, balancing the recommendations of national bodies aimed at humanizing legal regulations. This includes imposing appropriate penalties for the crime of human smuggling that correspond to the severity of the crime while protecting the rights of smuggled migrants, considering the provisions of the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants before it is ratified and implemented.

Integration of Environmental and Climate Pressures: Incorporate provisions addressing climate and environmental pressures in laws governing irregular migration and asylum, as well as in future sectoral policies before their implementation.

Adoption of an Integrated National Strategy for Migration Policies: Develop a strategy aimed at both Moroccans and foreigners, focusing on the governance of irregular migration. This strategy should align with current and future developments, be based on a commitment to rights, and employ innovative and effective approaches, including gender considerations and environmental displacement. Additionally, it should enhance mechanisms of cooperation and partnerships among all stakeholders, including financial and technical assistance.


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[2] Kingdom of Morocco, Royal Decree No. 1.03.196 implementing Law No. 02-03 concerning the entry and residence of foreigners in the Kingdom of Morocco and illegal migration, Official Gazette No. 5160, (13 November 2003), p. 3817.

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[13] Ministry of Interior, “Over 75,000 Attempts to Enter Illegally Thwarted in 2023,” Maghreb Arab Press (MAP), Accessed on 19/03/2024, at

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[21] Ambarak Idris Taher Aldghari, “Risks of Irregular Migration from Africa to Europe and Policies to Combat It,” Global Libyan Magazine, Issue 8, (July 2016), pp. 6-7.

[22] Kingdom of Morocco, “Annual Report 2020 on the Human Rights Situation in Morocco, COVID-19: Exceptional Situation and New Legal Exercise,” National Human Rights Council, (March 2021), p. 112. Accessed on 24/02/2024, at

[23] Amnesty International, “2022/2023 Human Rights Report Worldwide,” Amnesty International, (2023), p. 156. Accessed on 17/03/2024, at

[24] Kingdom of Morocco, “Annual Report on the Human Rights Situation in Morocco for the Year 2019: Effectiveness of Human Rights within an Emerging Model of Freedoms,” National Human Rights Council, (March 2020), p. 42. Accessed on 25/01/2024, at

[25] Kingdom of Morocco, “Annual Report on the Human Rights Situation in Morocco 2019,” Moroccan Organization for Human Rights, (May 2020), p. 124. Accessed on 25/02/2024, at

[26] Minority Rights Group International – Morocco, 41st Session, Human Rights Council, (November 2022), pp. 6-7. Accessed on 08/03/2024, at

[27] Zharif Shaker, “The Dilemma of Irregular Migration in the African Sahel and Sahara Region and Its Regional Implications,” previous reference, pp. 20-21.

[28] Kingdom of Morocco, “National Strategy for Migration and Asylum,” previous reference, pp. 4-5-6.

[29] Oxfam, “Converging Agendas on Migration Between the European Union and North Africa – Where Do People’s Interests Lie?” Oxfam International, (October 2020), p. 9. Accessed on 24/01/2024, at

[30] Kevin Kaiser, “EU-Morocco Negotiations on a Readmission Agreement: Obstacles to a Successful Conclusion,” EU Diplomacy Papers 7/2019, pp. 9-10. Accessed on 28/02/2024, at

[31] Yousra Abourabi, “Governing African Migration in Morocco: The Challenge of Positive Desecuritisation,” International Development Policy, volume 14, (2022), p. 45.

[32] National Immigration and Asylum Policy REPORT 2020, Interim Programmatic Review, Kingdom of Morocco Delegated Ministry to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, African Cooperation and Moroccan Expatriates, pp. 41-42. Accessed on 26/04/2024, at

[33] Launched by the Belgian Cooperation Agency “ENABEL”, in partnership with the Ministry of Social Development, Education, and Culture in Belgium, the National Agency for Education and Culture (ANAPEC), and the National Agency for Employment and Vocational Training “ANBIEC” and “Inter-Aid National”, in partnership with the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, and Labor in Belgium, with the aim of improving the employability of migrants in Morocco in the Rabat-Casablanca region.

[34] National Immigration and Asylum Policy REPORT 2020, Programmatic Progress Report, Kingdom of Morocco Ministry Delegate to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, African Cooperation, and Moroccan Expatriates, pp. 70-71. Accessed on 26/04/2024, at

[35] National Immigration and Asylum Policy REPORT 2020, Kingdom of Morocco Ministry Delegate to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, African Cooperation, and Moroccan Expatriates, pp. 62-63. Accessed on 26/04/2024, at

[36] Guide to Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights of Migrants, Moroccan Center for Youth and Democratic Transitions and the Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for Support to Human Rights Defenders, p. 12. Accessed on 09/03/2024, at

[37] Abdelrafi Zainoun, “Rights of Migrants and Refugees in Morocco: Between Strategic and Exceptional Solutions,” previous reference, pp. 32-33.

[38] Abdelrahman Shihshi, “The Legal Framework for Entry and Residence of Foreigners and Combatting Irregular Migration in Morocco,” Arab Democratic Center for Strategic, Political, and Economic Studies, Berlin, Germany, (2019), p. 109.

[39] Kingdom of Morocco, Economic, Social, and Environmental Council Opinion, “Migration and Labor Market,” Self-referral No. 37/2018, Economic, Social, and Environmental Council, pp. 9-22. Accessed on 20/12/2023, at

[40] Abdelali Boukaid, “The New Moroccan Policy on Migration and Migrant Rights,” in: Abdelkader Tayri and Ibrahim Ansari (Eds.), International Migration and Socio-Spatial Dynamics: Contexts, Manifestations, Separations, vol. 1, (Berlin/Germany, Arab Democratic Center 2021), p. 252.

[41] Myriam Massaya, International Organization for Migration Holds Regional Dialogue in Morocco to Discuss Implementation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration, Press Release, International Organization for Migration, (January 2023). Accessed on 11/04/2024, at

[42] Kingdom of Morocco, National Strategy for Migration and Asylum, previous reference, p. 12.

[43] Kingdom of Morocco, Annual Report on the Human Rights Situation in Morocco for the Year 2019: Effectiveness of Human Rights within an Emerging Model of Freedoms, previous reference, pp. 25-43.

[44] Ministry Delegate to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation responsible for Moroccans Residing Abroad and Migration Affairs, National Immigration and Asylum Policy REPORT 2018, p. 86.

[45] Moroccan Center for Youth and Democratic Transitions Presents “Guide to Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights of Migrants,” Union Newspaper Website, Accessed on 30/12/2023, at

[46] Yousra Abourabi, Governing African Migration in Morocco: The Challenge of Positive Desecuritisation, op.cit, p. 35.

[47] Mohamed Lkrini, “Morocco, Europe, and the Challenge of Irregular Migration”, Arab Policy Forum website, Accessed on 23/12/2023, at

[48] Abdelrafi Zainoun, “Rights of Migrants and Refugees in Morocco: Between Strategic and Exceptional Solutions,” previous reference, p. 36.

[49] Kingdom of Morocco, Report on the Results of the National Research on Forced Migration for the Year 2021, previous reference.

[50] Zerif Shaker, “The Dilemma of Irregular Migration in the African Sahel Region and the Greater Sahara and its Regional Repercussions,” previous reference, pp. 14-15.

[51] Sounia Abadish, Hakina Alaouche, and Mohamed Hamada, “Implications of Organized Crime and Irregular Migration on External Security of States: The African Coast as a Model,” Arab Democratic Center for Strategic, Political, and Economic Studies, Berlin, Germany, (2019), pp. 177, 180, 182.

[52] Yousra Abourabi, Governing African Migration in Morocco: The Challenge of Positive Desecuritisation, op.cit., pp. 46-47.


[53] Yahya Aalim, “Moroccan-Spanish Relations from Crisis to Breakthrough… Causes and Prospects,” Al Jazeera Net, Accessed on 17/03/2024, at

[54] Mohamed Jgham and Ben Atallah Ben Alia, “Rights of Irregular Migrants between International Human Rights Considerations and Security Approaches,” Journal of Legal Studies and Research, Volume 4, Issue 1, (June 2019), p. 120.

[55] International Organization for Migration, Regional Review Report on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration in the Arab Region, Progress Made, Priorities, and Future Prospects, (2021), Accessed on 13/03/2024, at

[56] Report on 20 Years of Law No. 02-03: When Will Reform Happen?, Anti-Racism Group and Advocacy for the Rights of Foreigners and Migrants, (November 2023), Accessed on 13/03/2024, at

[57] Anas Saadoun, “Human Trafficking Law in Morocco… Mechanisms to Protect Victims’ Rights?” Article published in the Legal Thinker Magazine under number 56 on 04/09/2018, Accessed on 03/03/2024, at

[58] Kingdom of Morocco, Report of the Thematic Working Group on the Health System, House of Representatives, Tenth Legislative Session 2016-2021, April 2021, p. 44.

[59] Mohamed Ahmed Issa, “International Protection of Basic Rights and Freedoms of Irregular Migrants,” Journal of Al Ain University of Science and Technology, (2020), p. 18.

[60] Abdelrafi Zainoun, “Rights of Migrants and Refugees in Morocco: Between Strategic and Exceptional Solutions,” previous reference, p. 38.

[61] African Union, Official Inauguration in Morocco of the African Migration Observatory, press release, (17 December 2020), pp. 1-2, Accessed on 28/02/2024, at

[62] European Union, EU Support for Morocco in the Field of Migration “North Africa” under the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, Neighborhood and International Cooperation Budget and Refugee and Migration and Integration Fund, (January 2023), Accessed on 13/03/2024, at


[63] Abdelrafi Zainoun, “Rights of Migrants and Refugees in Morocco: Between Strategic and Exceptional Solutions,” previous reference, pp. 35-37.

[64] International Bank (2021), GROUNDSWELL, Acting On Internal Climate Migration, World Bank Group, (2021), p. 26, 28. Accessed on 02/01/2024, at

[65] International Bank (2022), Country Climate and Development Report: Morocco, The World Bank Group, (October 2022), p. 11. Accessed on 11/04/2024, at

[66] Mr. Nasser Bourita, “The Kingdom’s Engagement under the Leadership of His Majesty the King Intersects Dimensions Related to Migration, Environment, and Climate Change,” Kingdom of Morocco, National Portal, (25/05/2021), Accessed on 27/01/2024, at

[67] Financial Law Project for the Year (2024), Economic and Financial Report, Ministry of Economy and Finance, Kingdom of Morocco, (2023), pp. 31-32. Accessed on 25/01/2024, at

[68] International Organization for Migration, Institutional Strategy on Migration, Environment, and Climate Change 2021-2030, United Nations Agency, (2021), pp. 46-47. Accessed on 05/02/2024, at

[69] Mohamed Jgham and Ben Atallah Ben Alia, “Rights of Irregular Migrants between International Human Rights Considerations and Security Approaches,” previous reference, pp. 121-122.

[70] United Nations, Secretary-General’s Report – Human Rights Due Diligence for Migrants, Enhancing Human Rights and Protection: Human Rights Issues including Alternative Approaches to Improve the Effective Enjoyment of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Item 72 of the Provisional Agenda, General Assembly – United Nations, Document Number: A/74/271, 2 August 2019, p. 9.

[71] Mahdi Ash, “Forced Dimensions of Migrants in the Sahara: A Crime against Humanity Confronted by Denial,” The File of Black Migration, Mirror of the Dark State, Legal Thought Magazine, Issue 27, (September 2023), p. 13. Accessed on 19/01/2024, at

[72] International Organization for Migration, Media Coverage of Migration Based on International Law and Evidence, Media Guide, International Organization for Migration – Tunisia Branch, (2019), pp. 84, 86. Accessed on 25/01/2024, at

[73] Mohamed Karim Boukhsass, “Irregular Migrants and Corona: Double Suffering,” Moroccan Institute for Policy Analysis, (15 September 2020). Accessed on 19/12/2023, at

Mouna Dalouh

Mouna Dalouh

Mouna Dalouh Holds a Doctorate in Public Law Specializing in International Relations, at the Faculty of Legal, Economic and Social Sciences in Tangier. The topic of the thesis on « International Migration is Reflections on Global Patterns and Challenges: a Study in the Governance of the Moroccan Strategy in the Field of Migration as a Model ». And a Master's Degree in Human Rights at the Same College.

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