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Migration Dynamics in Play in Morocco: Trafficking and Political Relationships and Their Implications at the Regional Level


In 2018, Morocco became the first country of departure for migrants from Africa, as Spain became, simultaneously, the most important gateway to Europe during the same year. For Spain, this development revived fears generated by the events of autumn 2005, when hundreds of migrants breached, for the first time, the security fences between its cities in the North of Africa (Ceuta and Melilla) and the rest of Morocco. It also recalled the arrival of 32,000 migrants, primarily from Mauritania and Senegal, in the Canary Islands from May to September 2006. In that sense, the history of irregular migration between Africa and Europe seems to have been repeated since the beginning of the current century. Thus, the recent migration trends in the western Mediterranean indicate that, even if Morocco does everything it can and collaborates fully with European migration policy, as is the case today, these actions will not reduce irregular migration to the northern shores of the Mediterranean – and stop all the trafficking it induces – unless a new approach to security, economic and social conditions is adopted in the countries of departure. The management of migration from Africa needs to be conducted as part of a global, coherent and multilateral approach. Migration policies led by the European Union as well as the Maghreb countries must be implemented in close partnership with sub-Saharan countries of departure. Such cooperation must include not only the signing of readmission agreements with every African country from which the migrants depart, but also smart development plans to reduce the level of emigration. Moreover, in regard to migration via the southern coast of Spain, it seems clear that without effective Moroccan–Algerian cooperation, Morocco’s eastern border will continue to experience high migratory pressure, even if the two countries complete the “walls of protection” they started building years ago between their respective territories. And that pressure will necessarily be borne by Spain and the rest of Europe.