Blocked from Europe, migrants settle in Morocco

Migrant vendors sell cell phones on a sidewalk in the Moroccan capital Rabat, in this December 19, 2017 photo. (AFP)
Updated 27 December 2017

Blocked from Europe, migrants settle in Morocco

RABAT: Unable to reach Europe in search of a better life, Aliou Ndiaye settled in Morocco instead, giving up on his original goal like thousands of other sub-Saharan African migrants.
“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 Africa-born migrants 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.
His story illustrates a trend that has gained increasing attention from Moroccan politicians, civil society and researchers.
Morocco has turned from a transit country into a host country for immigrants, 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 migrants 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.
But their growing numbers have created tensions. In November, residents clashed with sub-Saharan youths living in a camp in Casablanca.
“You can’t be welcomed with open arms everywhere you go,” said Olivier Foutou, a 34-year-old Congolese.
But he called Morocco “the most welcoming country in Africa” and criticized fellow migrants “who think only of Europe and do not want to integrate.”
Like many West Africans, he originally headed to Morocco for study, attracted by the quality of the education system and the possibility of scholarships.
He has stayed ever since, and sings in the choir at Rabat’s cathedral, a meeting point for the city’s small Catholic community.
Another choir member, Jean Baptiste Dago-Gnahou, fled war-ravaged Ivory Coast years ago and ended up in Rabat by “destiny.”
In his 40s, he is teaching French and currently has no plans to return to his homeland.
Papa Demba Mbaye left his job as a teacher in Senegal seven years ago to “live the adventure in Morocco.”
He was attracted by promises of work at a call center, a growing sector in need of French-speakers.
He soon discovered that it was a “job with no future,” and has since established himself as a French teacher.
He has written two books — “The life of a Senegalese in Morocco” and “Seven reasons why I love Morocco.”
Keen to build links between sub-Saharan Africans and Moroccans, he also runs a theater troupe on the outskirts of Rabat.
Despite Morocco’s new migration policies and the kingdom’s efforts to re-integrate with the African Union after decades outside the bloc, it is hard to gain permanent residency.
“I heard the king say on the radio that it would be a lot easier, but I have the impression that he was not heard,” Mbaye said.
The authorities are currently processing some 25,000 residency applications. A similar “regularization” campaign in 2014 saw around 23,000 people gain renewable residency.
It is hard to estimate how many African migrants are living in Morocco, especially as many are clandestine.
Official statistics show that around 35,000 had residency in 2014, according to the OCP Policy Center.
That is slightly above the number of European migrants who came for work or seeking a retirement home under the Moroccan sun.


South Sudan says will host peace talks between Sudan and rebels

Updated 13 October 2019

South Sudan says will host peace talks between Sudan and rebels

  • Hamdok will meet rebel leaders from the Sudanese states of Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile

JUBA: Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok will attend peace talks in the South Sudan capital Monday with rebel leaders from several Sudanese states, said official sources in Juba.
“Tomorrow’s meeting is to mark the launching of Sudan’s peace talks,” Ateny Wek Ateny, spokesman for South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, told AFP Sunday.
Hamdok, who was only appointed in August in a deal between the army and the opposition, will meet rebel leaders from the Sudanese states of Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
Kiir, who just a few weeks ago signed his own peace deal with rebel leader Riek Machar, offered to mediate between Sudan and the rebels back in November 2018.
This new set of talks follow a first round in September when both sides agreed on a road map for the negotiations.
This week’s meeting is intended to tackle the main issues, said Ateny.
Also attending will be Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who last week won the Nobel Peace Prize, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Their presence, said Ateny, was to give the talks more weight.
A senior Sudanese delegation arrived in Juba on Sunday.
The Sudanese delegation will meet Abdulaziz Al-Hilu, leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), which is active in Bule Nile and South Kordofan states. Al-Hilu will lead the rebel delegation.
This new peace initiative comes after the fall of longtime Sudanese autocrat Omar Al-Bashir, who was toppled from power by the Sudanese military in April.
Prime Minister Hamdok has been tasked with leading Sudan back to civilian rule, but he has said he also wants to end the conflicts with the rebels.
Over the years, the rebels’ conflict with Khartoum have killed hundreds of thousands of people and forced millions to flee their homes.