The misery of migration across the Maghreb

The misery of migration across the Maghreb
Mark Seddon

Sometimes the statistics are so shocking that it becomes almost difficult to comprehend the scale of them and the human misery with which it is so often associated. When it comes to illegal migration, attention often focuses on the pressure being put on Europe by waves of migration from Africa and beyond. But an estimated 35 percent of people in Sub-Saharan Africa live in poverty creating enormous pressure on households to find jobs and income to meet basic needs. And a great deal of that pressure as people begin to move is first being exerted on countries in the Maghreb, as the jump off points for huge numbers of people wanting to head to Europe. If current trends persist African cross border migration is likely to reach 11-12 million people by 2050.  The challenge is both how to manage it and also to tackle its root causes. 

After seven years of intense negotiations, last December, Morocco signed a Migration Pact with the EU. And Morocco is taking its role as gatekeeper of migration toward Europe increasingly seriously. According to a recent statement by the Moroccan Royal Armed Forces, around 87,000 migrants were stopped in 2023, a steep increase compared to the around 56,000 between January and August 2022. Minister of the Interior, Ryad Mezzur, attributed the increase in the number of attempts to a; ‘strengthening of the system to fight against irregular migration’.

In 2023, Morocco reported that it had thwarted over 366,000 irregular migration attempts to Europe over the previous five years. 

A key component in the human misery of so many people who leave their hometowns and villages only to find themselves in an even worse situation are the criminal gangs who exploit them. Breaking up these networks of organised criminals is seen by many countries both in the Maghreb and Europe as one of the key means of ending exploitation and suffering, but also the numbers of people seeking to migrate illegally.  The Minister also revealed that authorities ‘dismantled 290 criminal networks involved in irregular migration in 2022 alone’. 

And as some routes are controlled and policed more effectively, others open up. This year, boat landings on Spain’s Canary Islands off the Moroccan coastline have increased. Most of the boats come from Mauritania, with Morocco attempting to intercept those that pass through its waters en route. Spain’s Interior Ministry reported 11,704 migrants had arrived in the Canaries as of February 15th which is more than a sixfold increase from a year earlier. Ultimately the twin causes of migration than have to be tackled; poverty & conflict. A task, of course, easier said than done. 

*Mark Seddon is a former Speechwriter to UN Secretary-General Ban ki moon & former Adviser to the Office of the President of the UN General Assembly

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to MAGHREB INSIDER.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.