Blocked from Europe, refugees settle in Morocco

December 26, 2017 3:00 am
Moroccan police intervene during clashes between young Moroccans and sub-Saharan refugees on November 24, 2017 in Casablanca. (Photo by AFP)
Unable to reach Europe in search of a better life, Aliou Ndiaye settled in instead, giving up on his original goal like thousands of other sub-Saharan African refugees.
“Everyone has the right to go to another country to try their luck,” the 31-year-old former fish exporter from Senegal told AFP.
“Lots of people are trying to reach Europe, but some end up staying to make a living.”
Seven out of 10 West -born refugees stay on the continent, according to a December study by the Moroccan think tank OCP Policy Center.
Discouraged by the danger of passing through countries such as Libya and by harsh policies aimed at preventing migrants going to Europe, many settle in “transit” countries including Morocco.
Ndiaye said he gave up after he realized reaching Spain was “too hard”.
He took on several informal jobs and finally set himself up as a street vendor in Rabat, where he expects to remain.
Refugee vendors sell cell phones on a sidewalk in the Moroccan capital Rabat on December 19, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
His story illustrates a trend that has gained increasing attention from Moroccan politicians, civil and researchers.
Morocco has turned from a transit country into a host country for refugees, according to the government’s High Commission for Planning.
“The Moroccan authorities have switched from a security approach, which criminalized illegal immigration, to a discourse of integration,” said Mehdi Alioua, former head of a group that helped migrants.
He said the new approach involves moving refugees from border regions to the country’s big cities, taking them further from their ultimate goal — reaching Europe.
That has meant that many stay on in Morocco.
Rabat has become home to many sub-Saharan Africans who work at informal markets in the capital, while others, still hoping to make it to Europe, live in informal camps near bus stations and eke out a living by begging.
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