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Migration & Refugees

The Arduous Search for Dignity Through Integration and a Pay Check

Migrants on a street in Casablanca, Morocco. Courtesy: Alié Dior Ndour

MARRAKECH, Morocco, Dec 18 2018 (IPS) - One of the most common words used by speakers during the Global Compact on Migration was “dignity”—granting migrants the dignity they deserve. As with any advocacy, there is a danger a word can lose meaning through overuse. But on the streets of Morocco the same word means a lot to migrants looking for work. And when they find it—both work and dignity—it can alter the entire migration equation. 

“Despite the difficulties I encountered at first, being in an irregular situation, I am working today in a private communications company after an operation launched by the Moroccan authorities to give residency permits to tens of thousands of immigrants living in the country illegally,” says Ahmadou, a Nigerian migrant, who has been living in Morocco for five years.

At first, he was all set on reaching that supposed El Dorado for so many migrants: Europe. But now the situation is different. Ahmadou says professional integration is the key. If you have no job, he says, then the ambition to reach Europe will never disappear.

“I am able to provide the necessities of life, especially housing,” Ahmadou says. “Of course, there are immigrants who suffer because they have inappropriate skills, or because of the fact some companies give priority to local citizens.”

Amid increasing international bickering—with a lengthening list of countries abstaining from the Compact—eventually 164 countries signed the non-binding Compact for “safe, orderly and regular migration.”

The Compact seeks to ensure migrants enjoy rights within a global vision based on joint management of migration between countries of origin, transit and hosting. Maintaining dignity underpins this effort—both for migrants and countries at large—by establishing a set of principles fostering integration of migrants within societies, while giving states full sovereignty in the enactment of national migration policies.

Indeed, the Compact is not binding, rather it invites countries to “develop national short, medium and long-term policy goals regarding the inclusion of migrants in societies, including on labor market integration, family reunification, education, non-discrimination and health, including by fostering partnerships with relevant stakeholders.”

The process of integration lately has proved arduous in many countries—Germany becoming a poster child for such frictions after welcoming hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees from strife-torn countries—especially when it comes to employment for migrants, resulting in high unemployment levels.

Even if jobs are found, migrants in European countries are more likely to work on temporary contracts. Over time, though, the employment gap between migrants and native born does narrow in most countries, and even vanishes in a third, according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED).

Morocco is in a similar position to European countries having shifted from being a country of origins and transit to also one of destination for migrants.

Hence Morocco’s authorities have launched a program through its Agence nationale de promotion de l’emploi et des compétences (ANAPEC)—which translates as the national agency for employment and skills—to facilitate access to job search assistance, provide employment assistance and promote work equity within companies.

Its ultimate objective is to is to guarantee an honourable and dignified life for regularised migrants by ensuring equitable access to the labor market.

But despite such measures, the number of migrants and refugees inserted into Morocco’s labor market remains limited. On any given day, young men from various countries in West Africa endlessly pace the streets around Marrakech’s iconic Jemaa el-Fnaa square and market place in the Medina quarter, amiably trying to hawk the likes of iPhones, watches, sunglasses and bright decorative shirts to passers-by.

Hence calls to increase the ANAPEC services and benefits available to migrants, to mobilise and stimulate micro-credit institutions to finance income-generating activities and enterprises by migrants, and to improve communications to incentivise the private sector about the importance of recruiting migrants.

“Parlais vous Francais?” one migrant, sits by his trinkets laid out on the street, says hopefully to a potential foreign customer walking by, asking if he speaks English. But a shake of the head and a school-boy French apology are all that follow.

The migrant smiles and keeps waiting for another potential customer.

“Continuing to improve the conditions of migrants’ access to public services and rights, including the right to decent work, will push lots of migrants to realise their dreams here without the need to ride the waves of death across the Mediterranean,” Ahmadou says.

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