The report, which assessed the number of illegal attempts at migration to Spain since early 2016, revealed that Moroccans are among the most-represented nationals in the scramble for Europe.
According to Spain’s official estimates, 10,104 undocumented Moroccans arrived in Spain between 2016 and 2018. The Spanish Ministry of Interior also indicated that more than 250,000 undocumented Moroccans are currently living in Spain, with close to 5,000 identified as “unaccompanied minors.”
The figures put Morocco at the top of the countries with the most undocumented nationals living in Spain or crossing to other EU countries through Spain. According to Spanish authorities, Moroccans accounted for 17 percent of the over 20,000 migrants who reached Spanish coasts between January and July this year.
There were 3,403 Moroccans in this year’s “concerning” flow of undocumented migrants that reached Spain. The North African country was followed by Guinea (2,712), Mali (2,217), Côte d’Ivoire (1,116), and Gambia (1,031).
Although “alarming,” this year’s numbers attest to a decrease in the scale of successful attempts to reach Europe. In 2017, Morocco again led the dance of successful crossings to Spain. Last year, 5,391 Moroccans made it to Spain, followed by 5,200 Algerians, 4,267 Guineans, and 2,845 Gambians.
The figures come at a time of heightened concern about Europe’s ability to absorb the large number of migrants and asylum seekers arriving at its shores. But there is also a growing climate of concern in certain Europe quarters about Morocco’s role in protecting Europe’s external borders from the flow of irregular migration.
Earlier this week, a number of European politicians, academics, and activists raised red flags regarding Morocco’s role in Europe’s migration policy. They cast doubt on Morocco’s recent actions, telling Euronews on August 7 that the North African country may have let more migrants cross to Spain to force Europe into making deals.
“Traditionally, the Moroccan state security forces squeeze or raise their hands depending on the circumstance,” Gonzalo Fanjul, an investigator at Spain-based PorCausa Foundation, said of Morocco’s alleged political manipulation of migration control to Europe. “One of the elements that make us think that this is a factor is that among the flows that are coming there are many Moroccans, and these immigrants are not displaced from Libya.”
Economic hardship in Morocco
Others have dismissed claims that the increase in numbers reaching Spain was a deliberate move by Morocco to compel the EU into signing deals with Rabat. They instead argued that socio-economic hardship in some of the kingdom’s regions is such that authorities are overwhelmed by the increasing number of economically distressed Moroccan youth who dream of reaching Europe, too.
Mohamed Daadaoui, a specialist of North African politics at Oklahoma City University, said that recent uprisings in Morocco showed Moroccan authorities’ “inability to cope with the sheer range of socio-economic needs of the Moroccan youth.”
“Moroccan youth are all too eager to take the risk of crossing [to Europe] given the dire socio-economic situation in Morocco. Their prospects for jobs and economic empowerment have not improved, especially in the Northern part of the country.”