The adoption of the Global Compact for Migration was unquestionably the event that marked the end of 2018. Between the boycott of some countries, the outbidding of populist parties, the government crisis in states around the issue and debates between citizens on the relevance or not to sign it, the global compact has benefited more than it needs from a wide publicity in the media. There is no need to go back to a critical analysis of the content of this compact, these 23 objectives and 186 non-binding commitments which many other publications have already dedicated themselves for. As the saying goes: “The wine is drawn and it must be drunk” as bitter as it is. The curiosity remains to see how countries and international institutions will ensure the application of this compact to satisfy their interests in the coming years. While waiting to see the radiant world that this compact gives migrants hope for, these lines turn to the human commitments observed in the journey which was our participation in “the week of migration” in Marrakech.
Mobility, a source of inequality
Marrakech, considered as the cultural capital of Morocco, is undoubtedly the most visited tourist city in the country. In 2017, more than seven (7) million nights were recorded by hotels of the city. The famous and popular public square Jemaa El Fna, the base of all tourists visiting Marrakech, gives you the opportunity to meet Germans, Spaniards, Scandinavians, Americans, French and of course Moroccans who come to admire the ocher city and its charms. Tourism in Marrakech brings a financial windfall and a rather important visibility to the state of Morocco that does not skimp on the means to attract as many foreigners as possible. But certainly not all foreigners are welcome. And among the undesirable is a good part of the sub-Saharan travelers.
On the sidelines of the week of migration in Marrakech, 70 organizations from about twenty countries in central, eastern, western and southern Africa issued a statement denouncing the difficulties associated with obtaining a visa for Morocco. These difficulties led to the non-participation of many actors of the African civil society in Marrakech events. The first of these difficulties lies in the fact that Morocco does not have diplomatic representations in all African countries. More than half of African countries don’t have a Moroccan embassy. That force travelers from these countries requiring a visa to go to another country to apply. It seems easy then to imagine the additional costs of transport and hotels that it generates for these travelers just to get a Moroccan visa.
The luckiest African travelers are those who have a Moroccan embassy on their soil. And yet these latter are not spared by the difficulties either. In the constitution of a file for a visa application, the embassies of the Sherifian Kingdom in Sub-Saharan Africa require various documents related to income, the residence, employment, the hotel reservation and sometimes even the proof of air plane ticket purchase and not just a simple flight reservation. The visa application for Morocco is therefore a real obstacle course. This leads some people not to want to make their trip anymore despite its importance for business on the continent. The paradox is reflected in the contrast between the speech deployed by the Moroccan authorities to make their Kingdom appear as a role model in terms of migration policy in Africa and the reality of practices on the ground.
Like other countries in North Africa, Morocco instrumentalizes sub-Saharan migration, and its position as a transit country, in its bargaining with the European Union to obtain the greatest possible benefit from European aid funds. It is therefore difficult to imagine, even with the signature of the Global Compact for Migration, that Morocco is committed to ceasing its lucrative services of subcontractor offered to the European Union for the beautiful dream of freedom of movement within the continent. A dream that the African Union wanted and which the Sherifian Kingdom has yet to reintegrate. Marrakech will continue to roll out the red carpet for the Northern foreigners who will always stay there without a visa at the expense of African brothers in Morocco.
Hospitality, a value to honor
Although less honored during this “Migration Week” in Marrakech, the true heroes of history are the citizens who work hard every day for a dignified welcome and to offer hospitality to foreign visitors. At the expense of their lives, against the social prejudices and the public policies that criminalize them in their country, many of them want to support the side of humanity that is still present in our societies. The stay in Morocco was an opportunity to encounter some of these citizens who give warmth to the heart and hope to travelers frustrated by the countless sufferings of the journey.
These lines are a tribute to the perfect unknown person in Casablanca who took the time to tell me the way to the bus station of Ouled Ziane thus avoiding me to buy a plane ticket for Marrakech at an expensive price. Tribute to Mohammed for free transportation in his taxi on the roads of the residential suburb of Palmeraie. Palmeraie is the suburb where government delegations retreated for official meetings marking this “Migration Week”. Tribute finally to Siham, for her house’s couscous of the Friday savored in the pure tradition of the reception and the Moroccan hospitality regarding the foreigners. There were so many persons we crossed at the discretion of our comings and goings in the city who have honored the stranger I was. They were meetings that give hope back to our common destiny and humanity.
More than ever, hospitality is a challenge in a century where value only holds in the material and more particularly in hard currency. It remains a lesson to learn from the citizen who offers his smile, his time, information, quenches or offers a meal to a foreigner. A value that is lost in our so-called rich, advanced and civilized societies whereas the so-called poor and traditional societies before modernity have made it the cement of their culture. Thus, the culture of hospitality must be honored for all those who travel around the world by opening the doors and hearts to passing visitors as well as migrants called “undocumented”.
Solidarity, a perpetual quest
Solidarity is another value that is at the center of the crisis in our societies today. Competition and the defense of special interests being the master words of the neoliberal system, sharing and the necessary solidarity that allows the construction of living together must be part of our plea and our struggles for a bright future on earth. The vision of solidarity cannot stop at our debates at the national level on tax redistribution or social protection for all. Migration puts back on the agenda a global vision to have solidarity as a duty of humanity as a citizen of the same world. The meeting with Sub-Saharan migrants living in makeshift tents in front of the Ouled Ziane station in Casablanca and subsequently an afternoon of discussion with a group of African migrants at the Protestant Church of Gueliz in Marrakech were revelations in this sense.
The regulars of the trendy parties in Marrakech know well the district of Guéliz with its restaurants, bars and cabarets. Certainly, very few people had the curiosity to go to the temple of the Evangelical Church of Morocco in Marrakech located in Guéliz. In this den of spirituality, we had the chance to spend an entire afternoon of sharing with a hundred sub-Saharan migrants from West Africa and Cameroon. Our exchanges were mainly around their migratory journey and the adjustment difficulties they were experiencing in Morocco. While the reasons for departure from the country of origin were specific to each person, these migrants shared stories of suffering, harassment and bullying all along their migratory journey. Some of the migrants bore scars as a result of the harrowing experiences along the way to Morocco through Nigeria, Niger, Libya and Algeria. For others, the aftermath was the consequence of their failed attempts to cross the barbed wire Ceuta or Melilla or their aborted sea crossing to reach the coast of Spain stopped by the coastguards.
Unanimously, they recognize that, in their effort to adjust in Morocco, they are often victims of racist attack marked by the nickname of contempt “AZI” (“Black” in Moroccan dialect) which is given to them by the population. Testimonies collected from them also revealed to us the mistrust that characterizes their relations with Moroccans, some of whom forbid their children from approaching sub-Saharan migrants. The sadness of these narratives demonstrates the ambivalence of all societies in the world where tolerant layers coexist with xenophobic groups that cannot stand strangers. Faced with these excesses, the timid campaigns of the Moroccan government to fight against discrimination are beaten-in-breach by other strong repressive actions such as hunts to sub-Saharan migrants in northern Morocco a few months before the conference in Marrakech. These interviews also allowed us to learn that in order to give a beautiful image of Morocco to the delegates participating in the Adoption Conference of the Global Compact for Migration, Sub-Saharan undocumented migrants have been banned from carrying out begging activities in the vicinity of traffic lights, which are their main source of income. The generosity of religious and the kindness of some Moroccan citizens give them hope in this life of wandering specific to any migrant in transit to a destination that takes time to substantiate.
The same testimonies about the difficulties of integration in Morocco were given to us by the undocumented migrants we met in the “jungle” of Ouled Ziane in Casablanca. That was confirmed later by Sub-Saharan students in Morocco coming from Rabat crossed fortuitously at the train station of Marrakech. They also helped us understand the problems faced by children of sub-Saharan migrants born in Morocco who have difficulties to obtain a birth certificate because they are considered as the result of a union out of wedlock. The absence of a birth certificate thus affects in some cases the schooling of migrant’s children. The question of religious tolerance is also another point of contention in a very predominantly Muslim country where the increase of a population of Christian migrants essentially causes a certain tension. Despite the progress observed for the obtention of the residence card, especially for Senegalese, who are almost at home in Morocco, and Ivorians, other communities of sub-Saharan migrants are struggling constantly in order to integrate Moroccan society.
At the end of the exchanges that afternoon at the Evangelical Church in Guéliz, one of the migrants asked us a trivial question: “We know that there will be a conference on migration in Marrakech, but we do not know what will be discussed at this conference, could you explain it to us? ” As funny as it may be, the hundreds or so migrants we met who lived in Marrakech, however, knew nothing about the famous Global Compact that was adopted on their behalf and suddenly millions of dollars spent. This is the sad reality of our world where often the major multilateral conferences where governments are invited to solve the problems of this world are at the expense of the main stakeholders and for the benefit of clientelist organizations that live at the expense of them. After having explained the issues of the Global Compact in a short presentation to my migrant’s brothers and sisters, it appeared to me that the most noble commitment made in Marrakech remains to make the voices and the sufferings of the damned of the earth, who are migrants, heard. May our voices carry to the firmaments.
(Written by Samir ABI, Permanent Secretary of the West African Observatory on Migrations)