According to official Moroccan government statistics, the number of “illegal immigrants” has reached 40 thousand. The number however, could exceed government’s estimate, as the flow of immigrants arriving at the kingdom continues. Many immigrants prefer to head directly to the woods of Spanish-governed Ceuta and Melilla to avoid detection, and consequently, official Moroccan count.
Since mid-December last year, hundreds of immigrants in Morocco have been flocking to provinces councils and workers’ directorates to obtain residency cards, to change their “illegal” staying in the kingdom.
Outside the State of Rabat headquarter, a number of immigrants sit on the stairs. Some try to fill in the forms themselves, while others ask locals to help them interpret the requirements stated in these forms. Expressions on people’s faces vary; some seem to be hopeful, others anxious and confused.
Dune Voices met Abart Gargaris, an illegal immigrant from Sierra Leone. He says he has been living in Morocco with his family, without residency documents, for years. Gargaris, who seemed comfortable talking to us, says with a smile on his face “My life has changed drastically. I was among the first group of people who had their residency situation settled by the Moroccan government.”
Despite not having a fulltime job, Gargaris says his situation is much better now; “I’ve been staying in Morocco with my family for two years now, and I’m happy because the situation here is better than it is in my country. I have a sense of stability here. I run into policemen who offer safety and protection to people, I used to have to run and hide from them, but now, I just show them my ID without worry.”
A struggling Congolese mother has an account of a different reality though. She ran away from Congo with her young daughter, leaving behind her husband and their other daughter.
Inonda Gracetil is yet to obtain a residency document, and she failed to settle her situation during the first phase of the illegal immigrants’ settlement campaign launched by Moroccan government. However, she admires what the country is doing to regulate immigrants’ residencies situation.
Inonda says she has no alternative other than staying in Morocco, and she is thankful that she managed to find a private school, at which the principal agreed to register her daughter. “Now I can work and make a living” says the mother, who hopes she will have another chance to obtain her residency, so she can legally have her husband come to Morocco and reunite the family.
The latest cabinet, Morocco’s highest constitutional legislature entity, brought more hope for immigrants; King of Morocco ordered a 3 years’ extension period for immigrants’ residency application and granting.
Dune Voices have been seeing off the second phase of the campaign, which was launched in mid-December last year. Administrative desks were organised to receive and process immigrants incoming applications, which are estimated to reach 25 thousand request.
The national committee assigned said it will adopt “reasonable and fair standards to regulate and process the situation of the largest possible number of applications, in line with the liable and integral immigration policy.”
In a statement to Dune Voices, Frank Tanka, general notary of the Immigrants syndicate, welcomed Morocco’s immigration policy. Tanka says “what Morocco is doing an exceptional work, in comparison to what immigrants have to suffer in neighbouring countries.”
Tanka carried on to say that Morocco is no longer just a crossing point towards Europe, especially for well-educated immigrants, who can speak French. After settling their legal situation, those can find good job opportunities in Morocco.
Morocco’s immigration policy, have made it easier for immigrants coming from French speaking countries, to settle down and work Morocco, rather than risking their lives crossing the sea towards Europe.