The latest cover of Maroc Hebdo magazine—seen as racist by some, defended by others—has launched a national debate on the struggles faced by sub-Saharan Africans living in Morocco.
“The Black Peril.” That's the controversial headline that the Moroccan weekly ran on its cover last week to tease to an article about the rise in the number of immigrants from sub-Saharan African, many of whom come to Morocco in the hopes of making it to Europe. Many are turned back and end up staying in Morocco, where they live in poverty. Some end up taking part in illegal activities to make a living. According to Morocco’s Interior ministry, there are about 10,000 illegal immigrants from Sub-Saharan Africa living in the country. Human rights organisations estimate this number higher as closer to 15,000.
Headline: "The Black Peril."
Moroccan authorities are taking an increasingly strict approach to immigration from sub-Saharan Africa. Immigrants without residency permits are quickly expelled. The European Union’s ambassador to Morocco, Eneko Landaburu, recently called the treatment of these immigrants “problematic”, a sentiment echoed by the Moroccan Human Rights Organisation. Meanwhile, the Moroccan labour minister, Abdelouahed Souhail, accused sub-Saharan African immigrants of being in part responsible for the country’s employment crisis.
The International Organisation for Migration recently launched a campaign to raise 620,000 euros to help send some 1,000 illegal migrants from sub-Saharan Africa home.
"Young Moroccans have physically assaulted me on several occasions, for no reason"
Joseph (not his real name) is from Guinea. He lives in Casablanca, where he studies computing at a local university. He is a legal resident.
I came here to study computing thanks to a grant from my country. I’ve been here for four years, and for four years I’ve been a victim of racism. It happens all the time, everywhere.The most awful incident took place at the airport. I was with my aunt, who was heading back to Guinea and had a lot of luggage. Other passengers from sub-Saharan countries, seeing her struggle to carry it, came to help her get it onto the plane, but an airline employee stopped them, saying she had to deal with it on her own because she was black. I replied in Arabic, and he replied by hitting me in the head. I told him I was going to file a complaint, and he said, sarcastically: “That’s right, go complain to the king!” I never did file a complaint.Often, when I’m just walking down the street, people will call me a “dirty black man” or call me a slave. Young Moroccans have physically assaulted me on several occasions, for no reason, and passers-by who saw this didn’t lift a finger to help me. All my friends are black and they have all had similar experiences. Even the girls get insulted in the street. To avoid getting hurt, I now try to ignore the insults. But if someone starts to hit me, what can I do? I have to defend myself...In two years, I’ll be done with my studies, and I certainly don’t intend to stay in Morocco to look for work. Even if someone were to offer me a job here, I would rather go home to Guinea.
In 2005, a regional magazine published in the country's north had already created a controversy by dedicating an issue to "the black crickets invading Morocco's north."