Libmonster ID: U.S.-1379
Author(s) of the publication: N. V. SUKHOV


Candidate of Historical Sciences

Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Africa of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Keywords: illegal migration, smuggling, xenophobia, racism, human rights, integration of migrants and refugees, North Africa, Algeria, Morocco

Massive flows of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa have been heading through North Africa to Europe for a quarter of a century.

Since 2005, the author has witnessed firsthand the development of migration processes in the Maghreb. The metamorphoses of African migration and the problems that arise in connection with them do not leave me indifferent even today, after the end of the mission to Morocco in 2012.* This article focuses on the complex of problems that gave rise to these changes in Morocco, which today has become a hub of migration flows.

It should immediately be noted that we are talking about the problem of illegal migration, since Africans who have a residence permit and, accordingly, official work, are a minority in the total number of citizens of African states who are temporarily or permanently in the territory of the Maghreb countries.


Until relatively recently, the Maghreb countries (Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya) represented both a source of migration of their own population to Europe and a transit territory for residents of West and Central Africa. Both sought better educational and employment opportunities, fled poverty, political instability, conflict, and violations of their basic rights, and were driven away by natural disasters and environmental degradation. 1

The social and political upheavals in North Africa have not only led to internal transformations in the past three years, but also affected the balance of relations between the countries of the region, including the European Mediterranean. They have collectively influenced the nature and direction of South-North African migration.2

The current South - North migration of the African population, i.e. from sub-Saharan Africa to North Africa, began after the end of the "African awakening" period, which was primarily due to the gap in the economic development of these two regions, as well as weak control over the borders of independent States.

Trans-Saharan migration remained insignificant throughout the 20th century, but already in the 1990s, the developing economies of the Maghreb countries, mainly oil-producing Algeria and Libya, began to attract an increasing number of immigrants, mainly from West Africa. Along with economic factors, population migration in the region, especially in the first decade of the twenty-first century, was stimulated by military conflicts and outbreaks of violence in a number of African countries3.

It is important to emphasize that until recently, the Maghreb countries were

* In 2005-2012 Sukhov N. V. was director of the Russian Center for Science and Culture, First secretary of the Russian Embassy in Morocco (editor's note).

page 11

Map. Migration routes from Africa to Europe before the Arab Spring.

Источник: De Haas H. The myth of invasion Irregular migration from West Africa to the Maghreb and the European Union. IMI research report, October 2007, p. 17.

the territory of mainly transit migration on the way from Africa to Europe. The overwhelming majority of African migrants are driven by the dream of getting to Europe. They imagine it as a kind of El Dorado, a place where you can reach all your life's problems.4 This desire coincides with the aspirations of a significant part of the Maghreb population, so migrants from" black " Africa move on through illegal channels already established by the local population.

Since the early 1990s, thousands of irregular migrants, as they are called in Europe, i.e. without documents and entry permits, have crossed the Mediterranean Sea to the coasts of Spain and Italy. "Black" Africans were almost invisible in this stream, making up no more than 2%5. However, in 2005-2006, it became clear that the share of sub - Saharan Africans among illegal migrants increased significantly.

This was evidenced by their massive attempts to break into the territory of Spanish enclaves in Africa - in Ceuta and Melilla, as well as in the Canary Islands. These people represented a fairly wide geographical range: Senegal, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Mali, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Congo, Cameroon, Sudan, and even the Horn of Africa.6

According to various estimates, from 65 to 120 thousand Africans entered the Maghreb annually in the period leading up to the"Arab Spring". Of these, 70-80% were transited through Libya, and 20-30% - through Algeria and Morocco. Thus, tens of thousands tried to cross the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe.7

The high proportion of migrants from "black" Africa in Libya and, consequently, in the direction from Libya to Italy during the 2000s was the result of two opposite factors: Muammar Gaddafi's policy of attracting African labor in line with the pan-African solidarity proclaimed by him-

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on the one hand, and the anti - immigrant sentiments of the local population, which were later reinforced by the repressive measures of the Libyan authorities against illegal immigrants, on the other hand8.

In an effort to improve his relations with the international community, Gaddafi began to work closely with the International Organization for Migration (MOM) and the EU. This was reflected in the increased control of the borders of Libya and the organization of camps for illegal migrants. In 2004, an agreement was concluded between Libya and Italy on the deportation of illegal immigrants from Italy to the countries of origin through the territory of Libya and with its financial participation.9 These circumstances led to a gradual shift of trans-Saharan migration routes from Libya to Algeria and Morocco.

With the fall of the Gaddafi regime in 2011, Libya began a real hunt for migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, those who could not leave the country at the beginning of the crisis. "If you are a Negro, you will be killed," the survivors say. "They have it in their heads that our ancestors were slaves. This is their mentality. They don't think we're human. "10 Thus, for three years now, this road has been difficult for mass trans-Saharan migration.

The migration channel through Algeria, which follows the ancient caravan routes, remains the most "full-flowing"11. But the flow of migrants coming from the south of the Sahara in Algeria is also diverted to the West, to the border with Morocco. This is supported by the policy of the Algerian authorities over the past 15 years (see map).

Since the early 2000s, Algeria has simultaneously become a country of origin for its citizens, transit and settlement for migrants from sub-Saharan Africa. According to experts, between 20 and 30 thousand migrants from Mali and Niger, Ivory Coast, Sudan and Libya arrived annually in the southern provinces of the country in search of work. They found work, but they could not and cannot legalize their stay in Algeria.

The official position of the authorities is unwillingness to recognize their presence and, accordingly, to issue them a residence permit or citizenship. This is primarily due to the economic and social problems of Algeria itself. The implementation of the special development plan for the South of the country does not facilitate the flow of unemployed labor from the northern regions, but remains an incentive for permanent migration from seven neighboring countries12.

The Algerian authorities prefer to control migration flows through their territory by police methods. Moreover, this is done as part of an intensive fight against smuggling, drug trafficking and terrorism.13 The Law "On the Rules of entry, stay and movement of foreigners in Algeria" of June 25, 2008 introduced a new measure to combat illegal migrants: they must be sent back to the border of the country 14.

An interesting interpretation of this provision was observed during the author's stay in Morocco and is currently being tracked according to Moroccan media reports. Most of the border points where migrants caught on Algerian territory are taken are located on the border with Morocco. From there, the Africans enter the kingdom's territory and make their way to pre-known gathering places located along the country's Mediterranean coast. Such infiltration of migrants from Algeria has been widespread since 2004, i.e. it has been going on for more than 10 years.


How do migrants manage to travel long distances, cross borders, and finally get to Europe? Despite the fact that the world media and international politicians try to portray migrants as victims of "ruthless" criminal communities, the vast majority of them move independently, in small groups, from one transit point to another.

Migrants usually pay for crossing difficult sections of the route: the Sahara and borders. Those who are paid by them are not members of any extensive international network. These are local nomads and similar migrants who have stopped at this stage of their journey to Europe, who, thanks to their connections with corrupt police, officials and various intermediaries, ensure movement to the north15. As migrants cross the desert, they spend hundreds of dollars on transportation, food, middlemen, and bribes. Once they reach Morocco, they are forced to stay on its territory for a variety of periods - from several months to several years-in order to save up the amount necessary for the "last throw" to Europe. The sources of income of such temporary immigrants are day labor, begging, small-scale trade and transfers of relatives who have already settled in Europe. And the money to pay for it-

page 13

it takes a lot to pay for a sea crossing.

Widely "known" in narrow circles, experts on illegal traffic can be found in the secluded cafes of coastal towns in Morocco, where a seat in a high - speed inflatable boat costs up to $2000 for a Moroccan, and for a "black" African-twice as much 16. As events have shown, many are not able to save up such sums. In desperation, they try to find other ways to get to Europe that are even more risky than a boat trip by sea.

The first mass attempt of migrants from "black" Africa to break through from the territory of Morocco to the Spanish enclave of Ceuta occurred in September 2005 and caused an international outcry, as it entailed human casualties. Over the years, the number of such attempts and the number of participants only increased as the number of Africans concentrated in several parts of Morocco grew.

While in 2005 there were several dozen transit migrants desperate to reach Europe by other means, in 2014 there were several well-planned attacks on the border fortifications of Melilla, another Spanish city on the African continent, involving between 800 and 1,500 people.

On average, one-third of them managed to enter the territory of "Europe in Africa", which in total amounted to only 1 thousand in 2013, and in 2014 - 2 thousand people. 17 "Total" - because the number of illegal migrants from sub-Saharan countries is estimated today in Morocco approximately 40 thousand 18

Despite the fact that most Africans who end up in northern Morocco as a result of their long wanderings are determined to continue their journey to Europe, few have managed to cross the Mediterranean Sea or even the Strait of Gibraltar since the Arab Spring. Their attempts are met with joint organized opposition from the security forces of Spain and Morocco 19.


It should be noted that the current situation on the northern borders of Morocco is not the result of a spontaneous reaction of European countries to the events of the "Arab Spring" and the resulting changes in migration processes. The "barrier" to illegal migration from Africa to Europe was built ahead of time.

With the growth of trans-Saharan migration, EU member states have made attempts to" take out " border controls beyond their physical borders, to make them remote. Since 2003, Spain and Morocco, and Italy and Libya, have stepped up cooperation on border security. In 2006, Spain received EU financial support through the Frontex Committee for patrolling the maritime routes of illegal migration from Senegal, Mauritania and the Cape Verde Islands. Similar assistance was provided to Italy, Greece and Malta to control migration routes along the coasts of Libya and Tunis. 20

At the same time, under pressure from the EU, Morocco and Tunisia adopted harsh laws against illegal migration and people smuggling. In particular, Law No. 02-03, adopted in 2003, provided legal grounds for detaining migrants and expelling them from the territory of Morocco.

Through various mechanisms - military cooperation and targeted funding - European countries have managed to push the problem of illegal migration away from their borders, which objectively contributes to the accumulation of African transit migrants in Morocco. The government of the Kingdom, trying to meet the requirements of European countries to create a "cordon sanitaire" for migrants, is also taking serious measures to protect its borders from the inside. Human rights organizations even criticize Morocco for becoming a" European gendarme " in North Africa.21

By 2012, the country's territory has become a kind of trap, a place of concentration of migrants who are forced to survive in a society that is absolutely not ready to receive them. In 2012-2014, the negative social consequences of this process became particularly pronounced, which were expressed in clashes with local residents, murders, riots and demonstrations. Moroccan mass media and reports of public organizations defending the rights of immigrants provide an opportunity to recreate the reality in which immigrants from "black" Africa exist in Morocco.

The misadventures of those who manage to reach Morocco through the desert begin at the border. Many penetrate deep into the country, others are met by the Moroccan military, who do not stand on ceremony with them: in the Moroccan and European press, you can nay-

page 14

There is ample evidence of the shooting of caravans moving from Mauritania. Survivors, women, children, and the wounded are thrown to their deaths in the desert 22.

For the sake of justice, it should be noted that the Spanish border guards act no more humanely, allowing migrants to drown from wrecked longboats and boats in the Strait of Gibraltar or off the coast of the Canary Islands. The border between Morocco and Algeria, officially closed due to the decades-long cold war between the two countries, is more permeable, firstly because of its length, and secondly, thanks to local smugglers who transport illegal immigrants for money on camels, donkeys and SUVs, while not resisting the Algerian police.

Migrants who cross the border safely settle in the cities and forests of Morocco. These are the slums of Casablanca and Rabat in the center of the country, Tangier in the north and Oujda in the east. African migrant camps have existed for many years in the woodlands surrounding the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla.

In 2010, the author personally observed a gathering of Africans in the so-called diplomatic forest near the Royal Palace, a few kilometers from Tangier. Makeshift shelters made of twigs, cardboard and plastic provided shelter for dozens of people waiting to travel to Europe. Now it is impossible to see this. Police conduct regular raids, destroying buildings and deporting anyone who can be apprehended to the border with Algeria.23

Thus, a "cordon sanitaire" is being created in northern Morocco, which aims to prevent migrants from reaching the intermediate, but key point of their route - to the Mediterranean coast. At the same time, the Moroccan authorities are forced, of course, to push the problem inside, turning their country from a transit territory into a "host country".


Illegal migrants from sub-Saharan Africa have already settled in the central cities of Morocco for a decade. But until the early 2010s, their presence was not so noticeable and did not cause a negative reaction in Moroccan society.

In 2008, Moroccan researcher Mehdi Alioua stated that the interaction of migrants and local residents contributes to the integration of the former, provides them with a tolerable existence and allows them to save money to continue their journey.24 The population, which itself exists in difficult socio-economic conditions and supplies Maghreb migrants to Europe, the so-called kharraga25, is sympathetic to the problems of African migrants. Since the 2000s, they have settled in the "bidonville" and "folk" neighborhoods of several major Moroccan cities, but have concentrated mainly in Casablanca, Rabat, and Tangier.26

These neighborhoods are characterized by a dynamic growth of the poor population as a result of the constant migration of Moroccans from rural areas and the high birth rate. Another important feature of such areas is weak or no police control.

At the same time, the goals of local and foreign migrants largely coincide: to survive, save money and go to Europe. The main sources of their "transitional" existence are also similar-funds sent by relatives who have already established themselves in Europe. Being in daily direct contact, Moroccans and African migrants establish business relationships, exchange information, and sometimes make joint plans to achieve a common dream. Similar survival strategies and common behavioral practices contribute to their social rapprochement.

It should be emphasized that by the end of the 2000s, the researcher of migration processes M. Alioua in Morocco records the emergence of "new forms of cosmopolitanism" that emerged on the basis of interaction and common interests.27

In November 2012, an issue of the popular weekly magazine Maroc Hebdo was published, dedicated to the "black danger" allegedly approaching Morocco through the Sahara from the South. Migration from the interior of Africa has been described as the main cause of increased drug trafficking, prostitution, unemployment and threats to the country's security. 28 This development points to a radical change in the attitude of Moroccan society towards migrants from sub-Saharan Africa.

In a country with a high proportion of illiterate people, television has a much greater influence than the press on the consciousness of the common man in the street. And it does not lag behind magazines and newspapers. Two central channels - RTM and 2M-create the image of an immigrant through reports on the success of law enforcement agencies in the fight against illegal immigrants, focusing on

page 15

related security issues.

The independent press tries to remain objective, paying attention to the humanitarian aspects of transit migration. Describing the reasons that pushed citizens of other African countries to leave their countries, these publications condemn the facts of insults and violence against immigrants, both legal and non-legal. At the same time, they do not ignore the manifestations of racism, and the violent, often completely inhumane, actions of the Moroccan and Spanish authorities against sub-Saharan immigrants are seriously criticized, in particular, their deportation to the desert to certain death.29

Examples include interviews with migrants who have been targeted by such policies, as well as with victims of domestic racism30. At the same time, official publications, trying to refute this information, talk about police raids and mass arrests, stating that "not a single migrant from hundreds of illegal immigrants on Moroccan territory was abandoned in the desert or left to fend for himself on the southern border of the kingdom"31.

In the" party "press, primarily in the organs of the socialist movements and the national bourgeoisie party" Istiklal", there is a conflict between the line of criticism of the European migration policy towards Moroccans and the chauvinistic tone of publications about migrants from sub - Saharan countries. At the same time, Islamist parliamentarians are mainly concerned about the "moral aspects" associated with African immigration. For example, one of the leaders of the Justice and Development Party, an associate of the current Prime Minister of Morocco, Abdallah Baha, emphasized "the risk of the spread of AIDS brought by Africans from the South" 32.

The Senegalese architect, who studied and works in Morocco, wrote in his" Cry of Alarm": "Paradoxically, while the conservative Islamic party came to power, the values of Islam and its Maliki direction, such as tolerance, openness and hospitality, were blatantly lost... At a time when Moroccan youth seemed to have breached the wall of conservatism, archaism, and inequality in society, myths about "child eaters"flourished."33

Xenophobic publications in newspapers of marginal political organizations that nevertheless have their own adherents, such as Haraka ("Movement"), which belongs to the Social Democratic Movement34, or Risalat al-Umma ("Message to the Nation"), should be noted Constitutional Union 35.

In the light of the murder of a Senegalese man, who lived in Morocco absolutely legally, which took place in Tangier on August 29, 2014, 36 the materials of the local weekly al-Shimal, which accused the "black locusts that have invaded the north of Morocco", of all the problems of the city and region - prostitution, begging, unsanitary conditions in public places, attract attention after the fact. threats to the safety and property of residents, the spread of sexually transmitted diseases 37.

This generally unfavorable information background for migrants from African countries largely reflects not only the political and media discussions that have been unfolding in Europe for decades, presenting both black Africa itself and its population as marginal, but also being formed under their influence.38

At the same time, in an attempt to understand the depth of the existing complex of problems and the degree of complexity of their resolution, it is necessary to take into account Morocco's own stereotypes about black Africans that exist in the subconscious of light-skinned residents of this country and influence their current interaction with migrants who came from the South.39

It can be assumed that the difference between the apparent cosmopolitanism of the early 2000s and the xenophobia of the 2010s is explained by the transformation of a number of factors that occurred during this period: the routes and life goals of migrants, the internal policies of transit countries from passive encouragement of migration to severe prohibitive measures. These factors, in turn, along with the success of EU countries in combating illegal migration on their southern borders, influence the change in the status of Morocco from a "transit country" to a "receiving country", objectively contributing to the growth of the number of black Africans in the country. In the view of the poorest segments of the local population, immigration exacerbates their problems related to objective processes: unemployment, uncontrolled urbanization, and the economic crisis.

The Moroccan authorities and public human rights organizations operating in the country are trying, each in their own way, to find a solution to the problem of the State of emergency.-

page 16

existing problems. Moroccan society, like the societies of other Maghreb countries, is now in a state of complex interaction, sometimes confrontation, with groups of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa who find themselves outside the local social institutions, outside the accepted norms of identity, and in conflict with local rules of socialization.

* * *

The current migration situation in Morocco (recall that about 40 thousand illegal immigrants are concentrated in the capitals - administrative and economic - and in the north of the country) is one of the destabilizing factors that can undermine public order in this country.

1 Africa. Encyclopedia in 2 volumes, Moscow, 2010. Volume 1 A-K.

2 The Arab Spring and other crises in Africa displace morethan 1 million people - - 2011-issue-8-arab-spring-and-other-crises-africa-displace-more-1 -million-people

Abramova I. O. 3 Afrikanskaya migratsiya: opyt sistemnogo analiza [African Migration: experience of system analysis], Moscow, 2009, pp. 66-67.

Aliua M. 4 From transit migration to cross-border phased migration: migrants from regions south of the Sahara to Morocco on the way to Europe / / Transit migration and transit countries: theory, practice and regulatory policy / Edited by I. Molodikova, F. Duvel. M., University book. 2009. p. 367.

5 Morocco: From Emigration Country to Africa's Migration Passage to Europe - e-europe/

6 Data from the International Committee for Human Development -

Abramova I. O. 7 Afrikanskaya transbordernaya migratsiya i problemy mezhdunarodnoy bezopasnosti [African cross-border migration and International Security issues]. Uchenye zapiski instituta Afrika RAN, 2015, No. 3 (33), pp. 127-136.

Azza K. 8 M. Libyan Legislation on Labour: Political Tool or Legalization? Analytical and synthetic notes -

De Haas H. 9 Migrations Transsahariennes vers l'Afrique du Nord et l'UE: Origines Historiques et Tendances Actuelles - lue-origines-historiques-et-tendances/

10 Les immigres "africains" victimes de l'hostilite des civils libyens // Maroc Hebdo, 07.05.2014 - 10953-silence-onexnncute

De Haas H. 11 Trans-Saharan Migration to North Africa and the EU: Historical Roots and Current Trends - l-roots-and-current-trends/

Mebroukine A. 12 L'attitude des autorites algeriennes devant le phenomene de la migration irreguliere. CARIM-AS 2009/08.

Fituni L. L. 13 Aggressive non-state actors - a new threat to the development of Africa / / Scientific Notes of the Institute of Africa of the Russian Academy of Sciences, 2015, no 1, pp. 14-20.

14 Loi 08 - 11 du 25 juin 2008 relative aux conditions d'entree, de sejour et de circulation des etrangers en Algerie // Journal officiel, N 32, 02.07.2008.

15 Field materials of the author: Tangier, Mdik, Fnidek, al-Hoceima. 2010-2011

16 Ibid.

17 Immigration. Regularisations en marche // Tel Quel, 13.01.2014 - 10455

18 Drames de l'immigration clandestine: 2 morts a Tanger et des blesses a Nador et Melilia. 28.05.2014 - sses-a-nador-et-melilia_136748

19 Rabat, Madrid, Paris et Lisbonne face au Sahel // Maroc Hebdo International. N 1010.01, 07.02.2013 - e/5497-rabat-madrid-paris-et-lisbonne-face-au-sahel

De Haas H. 20 Maroc: Preparer le Terrain pour Devenir un Pays de Transition Migratoire? - nsition-migratoire

De Haas H. 21 Op. cit.

De Haas H. 22 Migrations Transsahariennes...

Errazzouki. 23 Complicity and Indifference: Racism in Morocco - o

Aliua M. 24 Edict. op. p. 362-387.

Mokhova I. M. 25 "Harraga" - a new form of Algerian emigration -

26 AMERM. Enquete sur l'immigration subsaharienne au Maroc, rapport preliminaire, juin 2008.

Aliua M. 27 Decree. op. P. 376.

28 Le Peril Noi // Maroc Hebdo International. N 998.2, 08.11.2012.

29 Les Marocains sont-ils racistes? // Tel Quel, 14.02.2003, from 34; Tel Quel, 15.10.2005, from 4; Le Journal Hebdomadaire, 15.10.2005.

30 Le racisme, c'est hram // Tel Quel, 10.12.2012 -

31 Le Matin, 15.10.2005.

32 Tel Quel, 15.10.2005. From 32-33.

33 Cri d'alarme. Touche pas a mon frere, 03.09.2012 -

34 Al-Haraka, 31.05.2000.

35 Risalat al-Umma reported that Africans ate a baby in one of Rabat's poorest neighborhoods (Qeune Afrique 2005).

36 Un tragique fait divers // Maroc Hebdo International. N 1084, 12 - 18.09.2014 - /28274-un-tragique-fait-divers

37 Ashamal, 12.09.2005.

38. Demintseva E. B. 38 Faktory i predposylki izmeneniya profilya afrikanskoi migratsii v kontsey XX - nachale XXI vv. [Factors and prerequisites for changing the profile of African migration in the late XX-early XXI centuries]. Afrika: protsessy sotsiokul'turnoy transformatsii, Moscow, 2014, pp. 127-128.

39 D'oil viennent les noirs du Maroc? Zamane. 05.2011; La fin tranquille de l'esclavage. Zamane. 06.2011.


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