Geopolitics

Once Just A Gateway To Europe, Morocco Now Has Its Own African Immigrant Tensions

Analysis: As Europe closes its borders, Morocco is becoming a new immigration destination for the rest of Africa. And like Europe, it is failing to address the issue intelligently.

The changing face of Morocco
The changing face of Morocco
Saad A. Tazi

RABAT — Tensions are growing between Moroccans and immigrants from the rest of Africa. In May, Abdelhadi Khayrat, a Member of Parliament, described immigrants as "Libyan-trained terrorists conspiring to unhinge Morocco."

From local populations who are quick to throw stones to elected representatives who overstep their prerogatives, the question of immigration is something that needs to be addressed. In the cities of Taourirt, Casablanca and Rabat, local authorities recently organized wide scale raids, arresting hundreds of illegal sub-Saharan immigrants.

Stuck between a Europe that feels besieged by immigrants and the African continent where people would risk almost anything for a chance at a better life, Morocco is changing before our eyes. For immigrants, it used to be a stopover on the way to Europe, but it is slowly becoming a new El Dorado in itself. Unfortunately, the country's legal and social framework hasn't adapted to this new context.

Illegal expulsions

Stephane Julinet, in charge of legal issues at the GADEM (Anti-racist Group for Accompaniment and Defense of Foreigners and Migrants), believes the recent raids against sub-Saharan immigrants were against the law. Article 23 states that "foreigners who have been notified of their expulsion have 48 hours to ask for an annulment by the president of the administrative court." Given the fact that these arrests aren't made on a case-by-case basis and that "it is the prosecutor who decides to expel foreigners despite the law requiring an administrative decision," there is clear disregard for the legal process, says Julinet.

Article 29 specifies that a foreigner being expelled must be sent back to his country of citizenship, unless he has been granted refugee status or an asylum request is pending. Despite the clear options determined by the law, all illegal immigrants are currently being parked by the Algerian border — a border which is officially closed since 1994 — without taking into account their country of origin, how they entered Morocco, and without the help of a translator or lawyer.

This makes the whole process, from beginning to end, illegal. Given the highly sensitive context, following the law should guarantee that the rights and dignity of all the people involved are respected. For Julinet, "Morocco must apply its own laws and stop treating the immigration issue as a mere security problem. It is time for Morocco to implement a real policy for integration."

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Geopolitics

Iran-Saudi Arabia Rivalry May Be Set To Ease, Or Get Much Worse

The Saudis may be awaiting the outcome of Iran's nuclear talks with the West, to see whether Tehran will moderate its regional policies, or lash out like never before.

Military parade in Tehran, Iran, on Oct. 3

-Analysis-

LONDON — The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said earlier this month that Iranian and Saudi negotiators had so far had four rounds of "continuous" talks, though both sides had agreed to keep them private. The talks are to ease fraught relations between Iran's radical Shia regime and the Saudi kingdom, a key Western ally in the Middle East.

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said that the talks were going in the right direction, while an Iranian trade official was recently hopeful these might even allow trade opportunities for Iranian businessmen in Saudi Arabia. As the broadcaster France 24 observed separately, it will take more than positive signals to heal a five-year-rift and decades of mutual suspicions.


Agence France-Presse news agency, meanwhile, has cited an unnamed French diplomat as saying that Saudi Arabia wants to end its costly discord with Tehran. The sides may already have agreed to reopen consular offices. For Saudi Arabia, the costs include its war on Iran-backed Houthis rebels fighting an UN-recognized government in next-door Yemen.

The role of the nuclear pact

Bilateral relations were severed in January 2016, after regime militiamen stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Amirabdollahian was then the deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs. In 2019, he told the website Iranian Diplomacy that Saudi Arabia had taken measures vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear pact with the world powers.

It's unlikely Ali Khamenei will tolerate the Saudi kingdom's rising power in the region.

He said "the Saudis' insane conduct toward [the pact] led them to conclude that they must prevent [its implementation] in a peaceful environment ... I think the Saudis are quite deluded, and their delusion consists in thinking that Trump is an opportunity for them to place themselves on the path of conflict with the Islamic Republic while relying on Trump." He meant the administration led by the U.S. President Donald J.Trump, which was hostile to Iran's regime. This, he said, "is not how we view Saudi Arabia. I think Yemen should have been a big lesson for the Saudis."

The minister was effectively admitting the Houthis were the Islamic Republic's tool for getting back at Saudi Arabia.

Yet in the past two years, both sides have taken steps to improve relations, without firm results as yet. Nor is the situation likely to change this time.

Photo of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

commons.wikimedia.org

Riyadh's warming relations with Israel

Iran's former ambassador in Lebanon, Ahmad Dastmalchian, told the ILNA news agency in Tehran that Saudi Arabia is doing Israel's bidding in the region, and has "entrusted its national security, and life and death to Tel Aviv." Riyadh, he said, had been financing a good many "security and political projects in the region," or acting as a "logistical supplier."

The United States, said Dastmalchian, has "in turn tried to provide intelligence and security backing, while Israel has simply followed its own interests in all this."

Furthermore, it seems unlikely Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will tolerate, even in this weak period of his leadership, the kingdom's rising power in the region and beyond, and especially its financial clout. He is usually disparaging when he speaks of Riyadh's princely rulers. In 2017, he compared them to "dairy cows," saying, "the idiots think that by giving money and aid, they can attract the goodwill of Islam's enemies."

Iranian regime officials are hopeful of moving toward better diplomatic ties and a reopening of embassies. Yet the balance of power between the sides began to change in Riyadh's favor years ago. For the kingdom's power has shifted from relying mostly on arms, to economic and political clout. The countries might have had peaceful relations before in considerably quieter, and more equitable, conditions than today's acute clash of interests.

If nuclear talks break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive.

Beyond this, the Abraham Accord or reconciliation of Arab states and Israel has been possible thanks to the green light that the Saudis gave their regional partners, and it is a considerable political and ideological defeat for the Islamic Republic.

Assuming all Houthis follow Tehran's instructions — and they may not — improved ties may curb attacks on Saudi interests and aid its economy. Tehran will also benefit from no longer having to support them. Unlike Iran's regime, the Saudis are not pressed for cash or resources and could even offer the Houthis a better deal. Presently, they may consider it more convenient to keep the softer approach toward Tehran.

For if nuclear talks with the West break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive, and as experience has shown, tensions often prompt a renewal of missile or drone attacks on the Saudis, on tankers and on foreign shipping. Riyadh must have a way of keeping the Tehran regime quiet, in a distinctly unquiet time.

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