Turnaround in Moroccan and Algerian migration policies

A recent study by the Institut for Security Studies draws attention to the change in orientation of the migration policies of these two Maghreb countries. Not so long ago, there was no migration policy in the strictest sense as these countries were simply regarded as transit countries between the centre and south of Africa and Europe. Immigrants were people in transit, who had actually doubled in number over recent years (although the main illegal immigration routes to Europe are in the east and centre of the continent).

Recently, Algeria, following the example set by Morocco in 2013, has announced plans to grant residence rights to illegal sub-Saharan immigrants, although it has not announced the number of regularisations to be offered (it is calculated that there are between 25,000 and 100,000 irregular immigrants). Morocco already regularised 25,000 immigrants in 2013 and is now preparing a second campaign. These campaigns may have a range of advantages:

  • Both countries need labour in several sectors. Immigrants can fill this gap and contribute to the countries´ economic growth.
  • It strengthens the position of both countries when negotiating with member states of the Union, as one of the objectives of this is the containment of immigrants (before arriving in Europe). It helps to regulate their situation in transit countries which could deter them from continuing their migration journey. If we bear in mind that, for example, in February of this year, 1,100 sub-Saharans entered Spain in three days, the possibility of containing these contingents in Morocco or Algeria seems attractive.
  • This regularisation may facilitate a certain integration of immigrants, a circumstance that will make it difficult for them to be influenced by groups like ISIL or Al Qaeda, which are present in the area, as uprooted people are easily seduced by the discourse of these groups. This situation will facilitate the ability to confront the terrorist threat with greater guarantees of success.
  • These regularisations would strengthen both countries´ relations with sub-Saharan counterparts and would increase their leadership role in the area.

Strangely enough, these regularisations are being applied with some reluctance, with groups that are against them, as they consider that irregular immigrants are only a source of negative influences. For example, in Algeria the announcement of the regularisation was followed by the launch of an on line campaign entitled “No African in Algeria”, arguing that these immigrants could take their jobs and spread AIDS.

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