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Morocco see massive demand from migrants seeking legal status

RABAT Morocco (Xinhua) -- Three months after the launch of a second operation to regularize the status of illegal migrants in Morocco, over 18,000 people have submitted requests to benefit from this process.

Until March 8, some 18,281 migrants have submitted requests to obtain regular status in the country, the minister of Moroccan Expatriates and Migration Affairs Anis Birou said during a meeting on migration here on Thursday.

Last December, Morocco launched the second phase of the regularization operation, an approach aimed at achieving the economic and social integration of people in an irregular situation, most of them from sub-Saharan countries.

Many have fled violent conflict, whereas others left in search of a brighter economic future in Europe.

Due to the restrictive immigration policy of the European Union, the irregular migrants, whose stays in Morocco planned to be transitory, were consequently obliged to settle down in different cities in the country.

In early 2014, Morocco launched an exceptional operation to regularize the status of people living illegally in the country.

The operations resulted in granting nearly 25,000 migrants a legal status.

Morocco announced the new and more liberal immigration policy in 2013, including avenues for regularization of unauthorized immigrants.

Figures show that 85.5 percent of the requests submitted by 27,449 people had been accepted.

Among the requests made by migrants from some 116 different countries, 23 percent of these unauthorized migrants are Syrians, 21 percent are Senegalese and 19 percent are from Democratic Republic of Congo.

Meanwhile, over 21,000 migrants from 36 countries benefitted, from the voluntary return to their countries of origin since 2014, especially from Senegal, Nigeria, Mali and Cameroun, according to data from the Ministry of Moroccan Expatriates and Migration Affairs.

In recent years, Morocco has turned from a country of passage for illegal migrants to Europe, to a country of settlement for migrants and refugees from sub-Saharan Africa, Syria and Iraq.


Morocco receives massive applications for legal status

RABAT Morocco (Xinhua) -- Morocco has received over 18,000 applications in three months from migrants living illegally in the country, Moroccan Ministry of Expatriates and Migration Affairs said here on Thursday.

The applications, filed in 69 prefectures throughout the kingdom, were submitted by migrants from various nationalities, said Anis Birou, the expatriate and migration minister, as he launched the project "Stories without Visas."

The project depicts, via digital stories, the experience of eight refugees in search for a better life who have chosen Morocco to settle.

Last December, Morocco launched the second phase of the regularization of illegal migrants in the country, especially those belonging to sub-Saharan Africa.

Since 2013, the process of regularization of illegal migrants in Morocco has granted some 25,000 migrants legal status in the country.

European Union leaders agree to keep tabs on migrant inflows

BRUSSELS Belgium (Xinhua) -- Leaders of the European Union (EU) member states agreed to keep tabs on inflow of migrants on all routes, as well as accelerate the return of illegal migrants, according to the conclusions of the bloc’s spring summit released early Friday.

"The EU will continue to remain vigilant on all major migration routes so as to be able to react rapidly to developments," said the conclusions.

"The European Council welcomes the Commission Communication on a Renewed Action Plan on Return ... as well as the accompanying Recommendation to Member States, and invites the Council to rapidly examine them," the conclusions added.

The conclusions also reaffirmed the EU’s commitment to supporting the Libyan authorities as well as their North African and southern neighbors in their efforts to address the challenges of illegal migration.

At an informal summit held in Malta in early February, the EU adopted a plan to aid Libya, aiming to bolster Libyan national coast guard’s capacity to control its territorial water and support the development of local communities.

The EU also intended to torpedo the human trafficking network on the route.

However, The European Council on Friday conceded that its member states have failed to reach consensus on the conclusions for "reasons unrelated to its substance."

"The European Council deliberated on the attached document.

"It was supported by 27 Members of the European Council, but it did not gather consensus, for reasons unrelated to its substance," said the conclusions of the EU spring summit, released in the name of the European Council president, rather than of the council as usual.

It’s believed that Poland, disgruntled over Donald Tusk being re-elected the president of the European Council, refused to give its nod to the conclusions.

Tusk on Thursday won another term despite opposition from his home country Poland.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive body, on March 2 toughened its migration policy by floating a renewed action plan and a set of recommendations for its member states, in a bid to speed up the return of illegal migrants.

According to the action plan, the EU would shell out 200 million euros (210 million U.S. dollars) in 2017 to member states for their return efforts.

The EU also plans to improve information exchange to enforce return by collecting information in real time at a national level and sharing it among member states.

To prevent absconding, the EU recommended member states detain illegal migrants who have received a return decision and who show signs they will not comply.

To shore up effectiveness of return procedures and decisions, the EU advised member states to grant voluntary departure only if necessary, adding that if such a request were made, the illegal migrants should be given the shortest possible periods for departure.

Since the summer of 2015, an unprecedented refugee crisis has been a tough nut to crack for the EU, as more than one million migrants from the Middle East and North Africa fled for Europe.

Eighty per cent of Mediterranean migrants reach Italy this year: IOM

GENEVA Switzerland (Xinhua) -- About 15,843 migrants and refugees have reached Italy by sea this year, accounting for over 80 percent of the 19,567 maritime migrants who have landed in Europe since January, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported Friday.

While this year’s total of migrant arrivals by sea on Europe is well below the 143,544 entries reported over the same period in 2016, the number of migrant sea entries into Italy is above last year’s equivalent of 9,496 arrivals.

According to the figures, IOM has recorded 521 deaths since the start of the year, 50 fatalities more than the number of people who lost their lives over the same period in 2016.

Totally 477 men, women and children have drowned on the central Mediterranean passage linking North Africa with Italy, making it the most fatal route for migrants seeking to reach European shores this year.

A further 44 individuals have lost their lives on eastern and western Mediterranean sea routes, a significant decrease from last year when 374 people died on those particular passages in the reviewed period.

Record 5,079 migrants and refugees died last year while crossing the Mediterranean Sea ,up from 3,771 fatalities in 2015.

Morocco seizes 7.42 tons of cannabis at crossing point with Mauritania

RABAT Morocco (Xinhua) -- The Moroccan authorities said it seized 7.42 tons of cannabis late on Saturday at the Guerguarate crossing point near the border with Mauritania.

According to a police statement, the banned substance was packed in bags of agricultural fertilizers in a Morocco-registered truck heading to an African country.

Despite efforts to crack down on cannabis farming in the last decade, Morocco remains the world’s largest producer of the cannabis resin.

According to the 2016 report by the United Nation’s Office on Drugs and Crime, Morocco ranks first among 129 countries in terms of cannabis production from 2009 to 2014, followed by Afghanistan, Lebanon, India and Pakistan.

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