If you’re black, it’s no easy task to rent an apartment in Morocco. Our Observer, a Senegalese student in Marrakech, sent us a recording of a call he made to a rental agent. The agent tells him very bluntly that the landlords he works for just won’t rent to black people.

Racism toward sub-Saharan Africans is a major problem in Morocco. Many of them come to Morocco to try to reach the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, in order to enter Europe. They face widespread racism and sometimes violence from locals, who accuse them of squatting in and damaging apartments. Last December, journalists from the FRANCE 24 Observers filmed a report in Boukhalef, a neighbourhood in Tangiers, on the tense cohabitation between Moroccans and African migrants.

This discrimination doesn’t only affect migrants trying to reach Europe, but also Africans who have come to Morroco to study or settle there. That’s the case for Boris (not his real name), a Senegalese student living in Marrakech. To show that some Moroccan landlords are racist, he recorded a phone call he made to a rental agency on October 15.

The recording of the conversation (in French).
Translation:

Boris: “Hello!”
Agent: “Hello.”
Boris: “I hear you have apartments to rent?”
Agent: “(Silence…) The problem is that you’re African. The landlord, he doesn’t want Africans.”
Boris: “Oh, really? But you do have apartments? There’s just four of us, four students.”
Agent: “There are plenty of apartments, but the problem is that the landlord, he says it’s 4,000 dirhams [365 euros].”
Boris: “4,000? How many rooms are there?”
Agent: “Two rooms.”
Boris: “Wow, 1,000 dirhams [91 euros] would already be expensive… Is it furnished?”
Agent: “No, it isn’t.”
Boris: “Oh, ok.”
Agent: “I think the lowest price is 3,700 dirhams [337 euros].”
Boris: “And what about the apartment in Issil [a neighbourhood close to the university], will the landlord accept Africans?”
Agent: “No, the landlord doesn’t want Africans.”
Boris: “What if you just tell him we’re students? Would he agree?”
Agent: “Well, ok, I can try and see…”
Boris: “Ok, I’ll call you back around noon to check.”
Agent: “Bye.”

"Some rental agents just hang up when they hear my accent"

Boris (not his real name) tells us what happened next.

"When I called him back, he confirmed that he wouldn’t even take the risk of sending my application to the landlord, who he said would turn it down anyway.

I’m 23, and I’m a student at the University of Marrakech. Last year, I didn’t have any particular problem finding an apartment to share with friends. But since the end of September, when I returned to Marrakech for my second year of studies, I must have called at least thirty rental agencies. Some of them hang up as soon as they hear my accent. Others admit that they don’t want to rent to Africans. Many don’t give any explanation at all.

Some of them even tell me that landlords are afraid that we’ll use our status as students to snag an apartment, then rent it out to others, and leave the country without paying our debts. Maybe they’ve had this problem before. But we’re here to study! The Senegalese state is paying us scholarships so that we can get a good education here in Morocco, because Senegal’s universities are overenrolled. In Marrakech, the universities are great. But seeing how hard it is to find somewhere to live, I regret not staying in Dakar to study!

I’ve been searching for weeks, in vain. Classes started a few days ago, and I am forced to crash with Senegalese friends who have been renting the same place for the past few years."

Certains propriétaires nous demandent d’être ‘attentifs’ à qui on loue un appartement pour ne pas se retrouver avec sept ou huit personnes dedans au lieu de deux ou trois.
Un agent immobilier à Marrakech

FRANCE 24 reached out to the rental agent heard in the recording. He refused to admit that landlords give direct orders not to rent to black Africans, but did say that some ask him “to be careful not to rent their apartment to seven or eight people, when it is meant to house three".

This behaviour on the part of Moroccan landlords isn’t new. In 2013, the FRANCE 24 Observers had reported on signs posted in building entrances in Casablanca that read “it is strictly prohibited to rent apartments to Africans".