COMMITTEE ON THE PROTECTION OF THE RIGHTS OF MIGRANT WORKERS CONSIDERS FIRST REPORT OF MOROCCO
11 September 2013
The Committee on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families today completed its consideration of the initial report of Morocco on its implementation of the International Convention on the Protection of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.
Presenting the report, Abdelouahed Souhail, Minister of Employment and Professional Training, said that Morocco, as a sending and receiving country of migrant workers, was aware of the importance of migration as a tool for development and had been the second country to have ratified the Convention in 1993. Equality between foreign and Moroccan nationals was enshrined in the Moroccan constitution, which guaranteed the fundamental freedoms of all its citizens. The institutional and legal reform currently under way sought to establish effective migration governance and covered, issues relating to migration, trafficking in persons and asylum-seekers. Morocco continued to face challenges in the management of migration flows, and in achieving better coordination with the various institutions and organizations concerned with human rights protection.
During the interactive dialogue with the delegation, the Committee thanked Morocco for the detailed report and informative presentation. Members raised issues relating to the lack of availability of disaggregated statistical data on migrant workers living in Morocco, as well as the situation of Moroccan nationals working abroad in countries such as Spain, the birth registration and school enrolment of the children of migrant workers, and measures taken to combat trafficking networks operating in Morocco and support victims. Questions were also asked about the access of migrant workers and their families to employment, healthcare, justice and education, the implementation and monitoring of new legislation, and the provision of human rights training to Government officials.
In concluding remarks, Mr. Souhail said that Morocco welcomed those who came there to work and treated them with dignity. At the same time, the country lacked the resources to allow in all those who wanted to settle down there. Morocco worked to protect migrant workers, who enjoyed the same rights as Moroccan nationals, and had taken many steps to integrate migrants in society. Detailed statistics would be included in the country’s next report.
Azad Taghizade, Committee Chairperson, said that the Committee should not forget the great history of Morocco, which had been involved in migration for many decades and had made huge contributions to the development of the European continent. It was clear that migration issues were extremely important to Morocco, which was working hard to improve the situation of migrant workers in the country.
The Delegation of Morocco included representatives from the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry for Moroccans living abroad, the Ministry of Employment and Professional Training, the Ministry for the Solidarity of Women, Family and Social Development, the Inter-ministerial Delegation for Human Rights, and the Permanent Mission of Morocco to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will hold closed meetings on Wednesday afternoon, all day on Thursday and Friday morning. The next public meeting of the Committee will be its closing session, which will take place at 3 p.m. on Friday, 13 September.
The initial report of Morocco can be read here: CMW/C/MAR/1.
Presentation of the Report
ABDELOUAHED SOUHAIL, Minister of Employment and Professional Training, began by saying that Morocco’s report was the product of cooperation between ministerial departments, national institutions and civil society organizations. Morocco was the second State to ratify the Convention, in 1993, but simply ratifying an instrument was not enough. Morocco was acutely aware that what mattered more was the implementation of international instruments, and attached great importance to the implementation of international treaties. Between 2003 and 2011 the country underwent six periodic reviews and gave careful consideration to the recommendations put to it, including on issues relating to migrant workers.
Morocco had always been a crossroads between Eastern, Western and African cultures and, as a result, the Moroccan people had always been committed to the values of openness and dialogue for the mutual understanding of world civilizations. Having seen a large portion of its population migrate to Europe, particularly in the 1960s, Morocco had devoted a Ministerial Department to the Moroccan community abroad and had also set up a National Council to ensure that there was good governance in that area. Those two bodies worked to raise awareness concerning the problems facing migrants abroad and to protect their rights. Morocco had also become the object of migratory flows and today served as a country of transit for migrants from the Sub-Saharan region. It had also become a host country to passing migrant workers who had decided to settle down there permanently. Morocco was committed to protecting the rights of all migrants, including those in an irregular situation, and was trying to find adequate solutions within the means available to it, which, unfortunately, remained quite limited.
Equality between foreign and Moroccan nationals was enshrined in the Moroccan Constitution, which guaranteed the fundamental freedoms of all its citizens. The Criminal Code prohibited all discrimination on the basis of colour, gender, family status, trade union membership, disability, ethnicity or religion. The Labour Code prohibited all forms of discrimination against workers, which undermined the principle of equal treatment in employment. An institutional and legal reform currently under way sought to establish effective migration governance and covered, among other things, issues relating to migration, trafficking in persons and asylum-seekers. The procedure of granting asylum status was being closely examined by the Government.
In 2007 the National Strategy to Combat Trafficking in Persons was launched, which placed emphasis on the humanitarian dimension of trafficking, particularly the victims of trafficking crimes. To tackle trafficking in persons, Morocco was in the process of adopting a number of laws and international conventions, including Convention 189 of the International Labour Organization, and a draft bill had been recently submitted to the Chamber of Representatives for approval. The Criminal Code had also been reformed to ensure that all forms of racial discrimination were punishable under the law with severe penalties.
The National Council of Human Rights was working to promote new governance with regard to migration flows. Nevertheless, Morocco continued to face challenges in the management of migration flows, and the country was fully aware of the difficulties lying ahead. One of the remaining challenges was achieving a better coordination of the work of various institutions and organizations concerned with human rights protection. Morocco’s unique geographical situation created additional challenges. In any case, migration could not be addressed unilaterally but should be dealt with through cooperative strategies. Morocco had a signed a joint declaration with the European Union establishing a mobility and security partnership, the first non-European Union country of the Mediterranean to form such a partnership. A global vision on migration issues and a shared responsibility were essential and the only way forward.
Recognizing that migration was a factor of wealth and development for the sending and receiving countries, Morocco had been involved in numerous regional and global events and activities on migration, and would be actively contributing to the United Nations high-level dialogue to be held in a few weeks’ time in New York. Morocco had also organized a regional seminar on the theme “Migration Governance and Human Rights” in Rabat on 5 July 2013. That event had served to raise awareness about the Convention and the work carried out by the Committee.
Questions by Experts
FATOUMATA ABDOURHAMANE DICKO, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for Morocco, thanked the high-level delegation from Morocco for its presentation and willingness to engage in dialogue with the Committee, and said that Morocco was an interesting case, as both a hosting and sending country for migrant workers. The Country Rapporteur asked the delegation for more information on the practical implementation of legislation and other measures taken to facilitate migrant workers’ access to justice, education, housing, employment and birth registration. Morocco had yet to make the declarations provided for by two articles of the Convention, she noted, and asked what measures had been taken to compensate the 40,000 Moroccan families expelled from Algeria in 1975. Algeria had not responded to that question in its report, so Morocco, which had a responsibility to protect its own migrant workers, perhaps could enlighten the Committee on the matter.
An Expert said the large, high-level Moroccan delegation attending the Committee review today demonstrated the enormous importance which the country attached to the Convention. Morocco had played a major role in global migration for decades, both as a country of origin and as a host country to migrant workers. The lack of availability of statistical data was an issue, which was common in many developing countries, and should be given specific attention by Morocco. Were the provisions of international instruments automatically incorporated into domestic legislation or did domestic laws have precedence over the treaties and conventions ratified by Morocco?
An Expert asked whether the children of migrant workers in Morocco were allowed to register in public schools and, if so, if there were any particular requirements which applied. Morocco’s report, said an Expert, gave the impression that persons without official documents were unable to register. Also, were migrant workers allowed to vote in Morocco? How many foreigners were entitled to social security benefits?
Bearing in mind the importance attached to the dissemination of the Convention among its stakeholders, what was Morocco doing to raise awareness about the provisions of the Convention? Reports had been received about Sub-Saharan migrants being subjected to maltreatment while passing through Morocco, an Expert said, asking how Morocco treated migrants passing through its territory on their way to Europe. Had any complaints of ill-treatment and discriminatory behaviour been received and, if so, how they were handled?
Concerning domestic workers, Morocco had a responsibility to protect them and to ensure that they fully enjoyed their rights, including the right to health care. The Committee had received reports that sometimes irregular migrant workers avoided going to public hospitals for treatment for fear of being arrested by the authorities. Could the delegation clarify the matter?
Birth registration was a basic right of all migrant workers. What measures had Morocco undertaken in that regard and how aware were public administrators across the country of rules and regulations relating to the birth registration of migrant workers?
Given that education was a basic right, as well as according to the Convention, did Moroccan and foreign children have equal access to education? What measures was Morocco taking to guarantee that right? How could migrant workers access various reparation mechanisms? Most Moroccan emigrants resided in countries which were not party to the Convention, which meant that it was Morocco’s responsibility to look after those persons. An Expert asked what Morocco was doing to implement the recommendations of other United Nations Committees. Could the delegation provide an update on the implementation of its national action plan?
Incidents of migrant workers being harassed by police officers had recently been in the news, an Expert noted, adding that reports had been received that migrants had been arrested by the police, taken to the border with Mauritania and abandoned in the desert, where some of them died.
The Committee had also learnt that migrants had been subjected to insults and violent behaviour in public places, such as on buses. Had Morocco launched an investigation into such incidents? Had any action been taken against the perpetrators of such acts of violence, including police officers demonstrating a lack of professionalism, solidarity and tolerance? Also, reports had been received about female domestic workers being subjected to cruel treatment, having their passports removed and being subjected to sexual violence.
An Expert wanted to know what Morocco was doing to protect the victims of trafficking in persons. The Committee had received reports that corruption and bribe-taking were widespread practices at Casablanca airport, where foreigners were often detained for a long time and well beyond the legal detention period.
An Expert congratulated Morocco on the quality of its report which, she said, showed the country’s commitment to the promotion and protection of migrant workers’ rights. Concerning the Moroccan community abroad, three different figures were given in the report. Exactly how many Moroccans resided abroad?
Response by delegation
Answering questions asked by Committee Experts, the delegation said that Morocco had been working closely with Moroccan communities living abroad. However, it should be borne in mind that the country was currently undergoing important structural changes and only had the resources of a developing country.
Concerning the relationship between international and domestic law, the delegation clarified that international conventions took precedence over domestic law, and said that the latter had to align itself with international treaties. Moreover, the delegation stressed that Moroccan legislation covered all persons residing in the country without distinction and that the same law applied to all. Workers enjoyed the same social and economic rights regardless of their country of origin or status.
In response to comments made by Experts about public policy and future prospects, the delegation said that Morocco was working towards achieving convergence and harmonization of all the different policies it had adopted in relation to migration. The Government was now engaging in strategic planning and was closely examining all the recommendations it had received during recent reviews. The involvement of civil society in the follow-up on those recommendations was essential, and, in order to facilitate that, a follow-up action plan had been devised. Also, interaction with the United Nations system was ongoing.
As domestic legislation was constantly being aligned with international human rights instruments, the promotion and protection of human rights through effective legislation increasingly required ongoing training. The Convention had been incorporated in training programmes designed for law enforcement agents. A comprehensive programme adopted in 2008 served as the citizens’ platform to promote culture, education and teaching, and included training for police officers, customs officials, and other civil servants.
Morocco was also working to promote economic, social, civil and political rights, including the rights of migrant workers. Emphasis was placed on the eradication of all forms of torture, the elimination of discrimination, and the protection of the freedom of expression and opinion. Particular attention was paid to the rights of vulnerable groups, such as women, children, persons with disabilities, and migrant workers. The idea was to promote a new culture of human rights based on education and awareness-raising. In that context, the media had an important role to play in the promotion of human rights.
Morocco remained committed to the United Nations monitoring system which had created a new dynamic and contributed to the promotion of human rights through public discussion. That monitoring system would help Morocco further to strengthen its plan of action which it had already submitted to the Committee.
Morocco had harmonized its national legislation for the protection of migrants with the provisions of the international treaties which it had ratified, including over 60 International Labour Organization conventions. Ratification of further International Labour Organization conventions was currently under way. A law recently passed was entirely in line with Convention 189 of the International Labour Organization.
Concerning trafficking in persons, a delegate said Moroccan Law 02/03 targeted trafficking networks, not migrants who were the victims of trafficking. A law which provided for the imprisonment of immigrants who had been victims of trafficking networks might be reformed. Morocco, which took trafficking very seriously, had recently welcomed the Special Rapporteur on the victims of trafficking and had passed laws criminalizing acts of trafficking in persons. A white paper was currently being drafted to give a definition for the crime. The social security services provided a helpline.
Furthermore, following Morocco’s ratification of the Palermo Protocol in 2011, it amended a law which provided for the protection of victims and witnesses as well as members of their family. Protection and assistance, including health care and legal aid, were provided to the victims of trafficking in person. A cooperation plan with United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (better known as UN Women) was in place for the protection of women victims in particular. Additional measures needed to be taken to ensure a fair trial for all victims of trafficking, sentencing within a reasonable timeframe, and the right to appeal against an administrative decision, whether on a collective or an individual basis.
In response to the question about fines, the delegation stressed that the purpose of the fines imposed on migrants was to sanction failure to keep official documents up to date and renew their residency permit. Under no circumstances were fines aimed at punishing immigrants. Morocco saw fines as an indispensable way to ensure that immigrants took responsibility for their own lives and those of their dependents.
Morocco had a National Human Rights Institution, which was in line with the Paris Principles, and citizens had the right to appeal to that Institution to seek redress and legal remedies. The Institution, which operated several complaint-receiving mechanisms, was a pluralist body with offices throughout the country. It had recently published a thematic report on the migration issue which contained many recommendations and contributed to the design of new public policies. The National Human Rights Institution played a key role in the promotion and protection of human rights in the country and provided reparations to all citizens living in Morocco regardless of their nationality, status or situation.
Recognizing that Morocco had always been a country which attracted asylum-seekers, the Government had introduced a new law on asylum, based on international instruments and principles. That law went hand in hand with the country’s new constitution, which strengthened protection for refugees and asylum-seekers. Several training workshops and awareness-raising seminars had been organized in recent years. As many refugee requests had been made by traffickers in past few years, Morocco was in the process of tightening regulations for applications for asylum status. As part of its reform of the asylum application process, Morocco had closely studied successful models from other countries, such as Belgium, where relevant staff had also organized visits.
The vast majority of asylum-seekers came from Cote d’Ivoire (36 per cent), followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Iraq. In 2002, 30 refugees were repatriated, while in 2011 that number had dropped to 16. The rights and responsibilities of refugees were being laid out in an official document which was currently being drafted. The delegation stressed that the management of refugee issues required strong partnerships and regional cooperation, because refugees crossed several countries before ending up in Morocco. Equally important were support measures to ensure the full integration of refugees and to protect their long-term social and economic rights.
Concerning the question about private recruitment agencies, Morocco had recently ratified the relevant convention and allowed the private sector to participate in the recruitment of migrant workers. Such agencies were required to have a funding guarantee which was the equivalent of 50 times the annual minimum wage and served as a deposit. If agencies failed to pay their workers, that deposit was used to pay for their social security contributions or pay the workers’ wages. There were over 30 recruitment agencies in Morocco. Their services were free of charge for the workers and did not discriminate on the basis of nationality. It was also prohibited by law for workers recruited by those agencies to be discriminated on the basis of trade union membership.
With regard to seasonal migration, the delegation said that Morocco had signed a bilateral agreement with Spain to regulate labour flows between the two countries in an orderly fashion. In 2005 there had been 1,300 seasonal workers registered through that programme. In 2009 the number had risen to 14,000, but since 2009 it had dropped significantly because of the economic crisis in Spain. Many of those seasonal workers were women and the vast majority of them returned to Morocco once their fixed-term contracts – usually between three to six months long – had expired.
All Moroccans were subject to the civil registration regime, which also applied to foreign nationals but was not obligatory for the latter group. Thus, migrant workers could declare new births in Morocco but only if they wished to do so. Between 2003 and 2013 the number of births declared by foreigners was 20,000. Civil status registers existed across the country, including major cities such as Casablanca and Rabat. Nationals from Sub-Saharan countries and from the Iraqi and Syrian communities tended to be among those registering new births. Moroccan women married to foreign nationals usually declared their newborn children as Moroccan nationals.
Concerning voting rights, the delegation said that when foreign nationals had elections in their home countries, the Moroccan authorities helped those communities and provided logistical assistance to enable them to participate in elections by distance-voting. Regarding Moroccan nationals living abroad, the new constitution allowed them to participate in various elections and referenda organized in Morocco through Moroccan consulates in the countries where they resided. Moroccans living abroad had a choice of participating in elections either by returning to Morocco or by proxy, which was voting through a fellow citizen of their choice.
The possession of identification cards was a requirement for all residents, including non-Moroccans. To protect the personal data of non-Moroccans, their registration card had the same format as that given to Moroccan nationals and was issued to foreigners without any difficulties or obstacles as soon as proof of residence and means of subsistence were provided. The validity of the card varied and depended on the various reciprocity agreements Morocco had with other countries.
The delegation said that the country’s new constitution had opened up considerable possibilities for the representation of Moroccans abroad. Morocco was in the process of implementing the provisions of the constitution to ensure that Moroccan communities abroad could be represented in several governmental bodies and institutions active in the field of human rights.
Concerning the issue of access by migrants to education, the delegation said that the fundamental right of children to adequate education, regardless of status, was fully respected. Therefore, there was no discrimination in the enrolment of children aged between six and seven years old in school.
The principle of equality between nationals and immigrants, which was enshrined in the constitution, also covered access to employment and social security services. Morocco had signed social security agreements with various countries to ensure the equal treatment of nationals from both countries concerned with regard to their rights and obligations, to protect the insurance rights of citizens in both countries, and to facilitate the transfer of entitlements by the beneficiaries to their country of origin, including maternity benefit and sickness benefit.
Regarding work permits, access to the labour market was open to all who were free to exercise a profession or take up a post. It was necessary to have a legal work contract and a work visa granted upon presentation of proof of skills and diplomas and nationality. The consideration of requests for work visas took into account the political, economic and social needs of the person making the request.
The right of migrant workers to join trade unions was based on the principle of equality of treatment, which was enshrined in article 30 of the national constitution. Foreign workers in Morocco enjoyed the same conditions and advantages as national workers.
The delegation pointed out that Morocco was the first country in Africa to have taken so many steps to protect trade union membership and rights. Several irregular migrant workers had joined trade unions and participated openly and freely in trade unions activities, as well as in televised debates on migration and in various artistic and cultural activities.
Morocco had made significant efforts to eliminate all forms of discrimination, as evidenced by new legislation introduced to criminalize and punish gender discrimination in the workplace and to ensure equal pay and protect migrants. A national strategy had been put in place to provide for gender equality across the board, although more needed to be done in that respect. Morocco also took a gender-specific approach in the governmental budget and took specific steps to tackle the marginalization of women.
Morocco had been making multidimensional reforms, which, along with the new constitution, institutionalized the principle of gender equality and non-discrimination. The newly established Equality Body was responsible for eradicating all forms of discrimination against women and was currently drafting a white paper on that subject. Morocco had recently adopted the Government Equality Plan to provide for parity and promote equality between men and women, and had adopted clear indicators for the effective monitoring and evaluation of that programme.
Concerning violence against women, the national strategy for the protection of women was based on three distinct aspects which complemented each other: the preventive aspect, the legal aspect and the protection aspect, which guaranteed the provision of health care and legal aid to women victims of violence.
In addition, measures were taken to protect children from violence, and the relevant national strategies aligned themselves fully with international conventions and treaties covering child protection. Local childhood protection units had been established at the local level to protect children from violence. The goal was to provide a comprehensive protection for children, focusing in particular on the needs of children living in the streets.
Morocco’s human rights education programme had been strengthened and a new human rights curriculum had been designed in conformity with the United Nations Decade of Human Rights education programme. Furthermore, awareness-raising activities were organized not just in schools but also at university level to promote harmonious cohabitation and tolerance.
Concerning medical care, the delegation said that the right to health care was a universal right. Primary health care was free of charge to any person living in Morocco, whatever their status, and always with respect to the individual’s dignity and right to privacy. Persons receiving health treatment were not required to disclose their status, nationality or ethnic origin. An indication of improved access to health care was the number of cases of migrant workers who were hospitalized, which had increased from zero in 2007 to over 60 in 2013. Every effort was made to promote awareness of the availability of healthcare services and to inspire confidence among migrant workers in Moroccan medical facilities.
Morocco had taken measures to keep the cost of remittance transactions low and to ensure that a steady remittance flow kept contributing to the development of the country. Recognizing that Moroccans living abroad were a strong pillar of development in Morocco, the Government had provided specific incentives for Moroccan migrant workers to invest in their country of origin. In 2013 alone, 50 investment projects were being financed by Moroccans abroad.
Issues of discrimination against Moroccans, which had been reported in the Netherlands, were raised with the Dutch Government and a solution was actively sought. Meanwhile, assistance was provided to the individuals concerned through the Moroccan embassy and consulates in the Netherlands. The delegation said that information about Moroccans living abroad was not always readily available. The release of such statistics largely depended on the country concerned.
Concerning the exact figure of Moroccans voting abroad, as requested by the Committee, the delegation said that voting was a right and not an obligation. In 2011, 266,000 immigrants had voted in the constitutional referendum. That was a very large number, given that at the time many Moroccan immigrants were returning to their country of origin.
Migrants in an irregular situation who illegally occupied a complex had been evicted from the building and some of them had been deported. Deportations had been carried out in a legal manner.
Concerning the migrants from Mauritania, a delegate said that seven persons had entered Morocco from Mauritania. When they exceeded their duration of stay, they were returned to Mauritania by bus, and their dignity and human rights were fully respected throughout the process.
A delegate noted that detailed answers to all questions asked by the Committee had been circulated to the Committee Experts in electronic format.
ABDELOUAHED SOUHAIL, Minister for Employment and Professional Training, thanked the Committee for the fruitful dialogue. He said that Morocco was not a xenophobic country. Moroccans were fully aware of their origins and cultural heritage, which had roots both in the south and in the north. Morocco welcomed those who came there to work and treated them with dignity. At the same time, Morocco lacked the resources to allow into the country all those who wished to settle down there, so a delicate balance had to be found.
Morocco worked to protect migrant workers, who enjoyed the same rights as Moroccan nationals. In addition, many steps had been taken to integrate migrants into society and to facilitate the schooling of their children. Incidents of violence which had recently occurred in the country were not targeting immigrants specifically. Morocco was fully committed to the Convention and was keen to show the world that it was not a xenophobic society. The delegation had noted the Experts’ comments, and detailed statistics would be included in the country’s next report. In the meantime, communication channels with the Committee would be kept open and the scope of training courses for Government officials would be expanded and kept up to date.
AZAD TAGHIZADE, Committee Chairperson, said that the high-level, expert Moroccan delegation had demonstrated that migration issues were extremely important to Morocco, which was working hard to improve the situation of migrant workers in the country. He said that the Committee should not forget the great history of Morocco, which had been involved in migration for many decades and had made huge contributions to the development of the European continent. None of that development would have been possible without the involvement of Moroccan migrant workers. The Committee was looking forward to continuing its close cooperation with Morocco.
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