Legalising migrants can boost economic growth, improve international relations and prevent radicalisation.
Algeria and Morocco have for the past decade been important transit and stopover countries for migrants moving to Europe. Many also stop to seek informal work in Algeria’s $548.3 billion hydrocarbon economy and Morocco’s $257.3 billion diversified economy.
Earlier this week, a damning report from advocacy group The Syria Campaign accused the United Nations of breaching its humanitarian principles by prioritizing cooperation with the Assad government “at all costs.” This is not the first time that such charges have been leveled. An internal inquiry into the UN’s response to the final days of the decades-long Sri Lankan civil war found that officials privileged maintaining good relations with the Colombo regime over their responsibilities to protect human rights.
What is more, the UN has recently been at the receiving end of an avalanche of revelations that it has succumbed to pressure from it member states over its reporting and language:
Australia lobbied hard to ensure that UNESCO removed the Great Barrier Reef from a list of endangered world heritage sites, despite near universal consensus among scientists studying the reef that it is, indeed, deeply at risk as a result of climate change and runoffs from coastal farms and industrial plants.
Saudi Arabia threatened to defund UN programs, and to encourage other Islamic countries to do the same, if the UN did not remove a report’s references to patterns of violations against children in Yemen committed by the Saudi-led coalition.
Morocco threatened to withdraw support for UN operations in retaliation for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon referring to Western Sahara as “occupied,” despite the fact that this is precisely the legal situation in that part of the world until a referendum on its future can be held.
Myanmar insisted that UN officials refrain from using the term “Rohingya” to refer to an ethnic minority in that country and has threatened to withdraw cooperation with any that do. Some, such as the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy Satish Nambiar, have complied with the regime’s demand, overlooking the right of groups to self-identify. Others, such as Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Yanghee Lee continue to use the label and have faced vilification because of it.
Resource-rich Western Sahara is at the top of the news this week, and the “last colonial conflict” in Africa is definitely an issue to watch.
Al Jazeera’s bureau in Morocco was closed down two weeks ago by the authorities. The news network gave its coverage of the Western Sahara issue as one of the main reasons. So if the Moroccan government doesn’t want us to know about what’s going on there, chances are it must be something interesting and worth digging deeper into.
Representatives of Morocco, the Polisario Front, Algeria and Mauritania are currently gathered in New York for a round of UN-brokered informal talks in an effort to end a conflict that has its roots in the 1970s. Just before the talks started, a raid by Moroccan forces on a Western Saharan refugee camp left dozens injured and four dead.
Western Sahara is likely to gain strategic importance as world reserves in phosphate are depleted, because it is one of the few regions in the world to hold large quantities of this key fertilizer. Moreover, the region possesses significant fisheries and offshore oil reserves, raising the strategic stakes further.
Morocco doesn’t want to let go of such a treasure vault, but the Polisario front has been pressing for a referendum on the independence of the region for years. The UN, on the other hand, has been monitoring a ceasefire between the two parties since 1991, keeping a fragile and unsustainable ‘peace’ of sorts in place.
But what does the recent raid and the closing down of Al Jazeera’s Morocco bureau say about Moroccan tactics in Western Sahara and will negotiations this time lead anywhere?
To learn more about the background to this conflict, explore our Digital Library holdings on Western Sahara. Some resources worth highlighting include:
A policy brief by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) outlining why the mediation process by the UN is not working
This situation report by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) presenting the perspectives of both Morocco and the Polisario Front on the conflict
This report by International Crisis Group describing the costs of this protracted frozen conflict
The paper says that about 100,000 Portuguese live in Angola at the moment. They get better career opportunities there than back home, especially with the oil economy booming. That figure is pretty impressive when you think that the Angolan civil war only just ended in 2002.
At the same time, something similar is happening between France and Morocco. Many young educated French-born people with Moroccan roots decide to migrate to the country of their parents or grandparents. They have access to better jobs and social recognition in Morocco. Life is still pretty difficult for people with an Arab name in France.