Four. Migration governance in Africa: prospects, contests and controversies

Migration, governance and geopolitical conflicts in Africa: A comparative analysis of the Moroccan Algerian migration policies

Mohammed Ouhemmou


Since January to mid-April 2020, more than 20,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean Sea towards the EU. More specifically 6,129 crossed from Morocco towards Spain (UNHCR 2020). Although many North African countries adopt a discourse of Pan-African solidarity and South-South cooperation, their actual practices and approach to migration are shaped by larger geopolitical considerations related to the EU border externalisation policies. The approaches adopted by these countries are also shaped by border disputes as well as political rivalry between regimes as it is the case of Morocco and Algeria. In Morocco, the management of Sub-Saharan migrant inflows is shaped mostly by Morocco’s rivalry with Algeria, and disagreement over border management. The EU, which seeks to externalise its borders and use Morocco and Algeria as a buffer zone to block the inflow of irregular migrants from Africa, also plays a significant role in shaping the migration policies of Morocco and Algeria (Laube, 2019).

In responding to these considerations, Morocco’s migration policy went through two significant transformations. From the early 2000s, until 2013 Morocco approached migration as a security issue. Irregular migration was criminalised through law N 02-03. Migrants were often rounded up from the streets of cities like Rabat and Casablanca, and displaced towards the Algerian borders. Pressure on Morocco’s border with the EU was reduced by displacing migrants towards the Algerian borders (GADEM, 2018). This period was marked by serious abuses against migrants (MSF, 2013); and the rise of racism and discrimination against migrants (Mason, 2013). However, given the international criticism these practices have generated, and Morocco’s rising interest in re-joining the African Union, in 2013 the country adopted a new policy. Algeria’s migration policy is also shaped by the same factors as the Moroccan policy. However, Algeria has maintained a consistent securitised approach to migration. Since the adoption of law No 08-11(2008) the practices of the security forces as well as the official discourse have consistently addressed immigrants as a risk to the national security, linking migrants with crime and drug smuggling, therefore moving the issue of migration from the domain of human rights into the domain of security. The denial of access to basic services renders the migrants as vulnerable victims of security forces, local criminal groups and unscrupulous smuggling networks. The absence of paths towards régularisation also blocks any paths towards socioeconomic mobility.

Morocco and Algeria are both members of African Union (AU); therefore, their migration policies are expected to reflect the AU’s position with regards to migration. However, as the chapter shows, the migration policies in Morocco and Algeria are largely shaped by the European Union which generously funds border control and anti-migration policies, and therefore turning these North African states into a buffer zone between Africa and Europe without actually taking direct responsibility for the casualties that take place while implementing these anti-migration polices. The Euro-African Dialogue on Migration and Development, which involved series of high level ministerial conferences starting from the 2006 Rabat action plan, to 2018 Marrakech program was expected to help promote and share good practices in migration management and help states develop national migration systems that facilitate settlement and protect migrants. Instead, these frameworks have mostly steered financial resources that were used to enhance border control measures and enhance anti-migration legal framework which only increased the vulnerability of migrants.

In addition, both Morocco and Algeria are members of Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) which automatically entails free movement between the two countries. However, political rivalry, border disputes did not only block mobility within North Africa, but have also severely impacted mobility from Sub-Saharan Africa towards the EU. This chapter explores how intraAfrican border disputes disrupt intra-African migration, increase migrant vulnerability and victimisation and prevent the development of comprehensive migration frameworks. Given that border disputes and securitisation are not uniquely restricted to Morocco and Algeria, and given the difficulties of adopting a common African approach to migration, this chapter posits that it is important to think of intra-African migration at more local levels, and develop small scale and national migration policies.

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