UN efforts to improve refugee protection in Morocco bear fruit

A refugee tries her hand at traditional weaving in a Moroccan women's craft cooperative

1 April 2010 – Efforts by the United Nations refugee agency to address refugee protection and mixed migration in Morocco have helped to improve protection, but significant challenges remain, the agency said in a new report.

The report by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) found that innovative approaches have been taken in refugee community outreach, local integration opportunities and support to voluntary and dignified return in close cooperation with the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Given the largely clandestine nature of migratory movements, it is difficult to estimate the number of foreign nationals currently living in Morocco without legal status, according to the report released on Wednesday by UNHCR’s Policy Development and Evaluation Service.

Moroccan Government sources and independent researchers suggest a minimum of some 10,000 irregular migrants of sub-Saharan origin may be in the country. Only about 750 to 800 people, or less than one per cent of the total, have been recognized as refugees by UNHCR.

Morocco has a long-standing tradition of hosting refugees and migrants. The country has ratified all the major international treaties concerning migrants, refugees and human rights, including the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol.

Hindered by their lack of a recognized legal status, as well as ethnic and linguistic differences, refugees, like other migrants in Morocco, find it hard to establish sustainable livelihoods. These difficulties remain a concern to UNHCR in Morocco.

The report identifies the Moroccan diaspora as an untapped source of potential partnership, as they might be motivated to play a role in advocating for the human rights of foreign nationals in Morocco, including refugees.

Increased collaboration with the UN country team has increased donors' confidence in inter-agency coordination, leading to the development of a strategic framework for joint action on migration, which includes a number of refugee protection components related to UNHCR’s 10-Point Plan of Action on Refugee Protection and Mixed Migration.

The report also acknowledges that without the active engagement and support of the host State, UNHCR's efforts will inevitably be limited in their outcome and impact, as the ultimate responsibility to protect and provide durable solutions for refugees lie with States.

News Tracker: past stories on this issue

Claims of asylum inconsistently examined across European Union – UN

Related Stories