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Cablegate: Upping the Ante On Migration in Morocco: Moroccan Minors

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHCL #0196/01 2781105
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 051105Z OCT 07
FM AMCONSUL CASABLANCA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7851
INFO RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT 8100
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS 2936
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS 2059
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0600
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0313
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID 3749
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 0295
RUEHBS/AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS 0965
RUEHNK/AMEMBASSY NOUAKCHOTT 2292
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0638
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM 4696

UNCLAS CASABLANCA 000196

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

STATE ALSO FOR G/TIP, DRL/IL, NEA/RA, PRM/AFR, AND NEA/MAG

LABOR FOR ILAB

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM SMIG ELAB MO
SUBJECT: UPPING THE ANTE ON MIGRATION IN MOROCCO: MOROCCAN MINORS
HEADING NORTH

REF: A) CASABLANCA 0193

1. (U) This cable is sensitive but unclassified. Please protect
accordingly.

2. (SBU) As the border between Morocco and the EU tightens and
more adult Moroccan illegal migrants are apprehended and returned,
families are opting to send minor children north in hopes that they
will be allowed to stay and work in Europe. Minors migrating to
Europe is a trend that first appeared in force in the 1990s,
however, in recent years the number making the journey has increased
exponentially. Now, Morocco and the EU are joining forces to combat
the problem at the source. In the past year numerous agreements
have been signed to build education and training centers throughout
the country, as well as reception centers to house returning
Moroccan youth. The controversy of how and when to return Moroccan
minors, however, is still a matter for discussion.

--------------------------------------
Children Go Where Adults Fear to Tread
--------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Efforts to protect the Moroccan-Spanish border have become
increasingly successful in recent years, resulting in a significant
decrease in the number of clandestine immigrants successfully
crossing into EU territory. However, while the overall numbers are
declining, the number of Moroccan youth attempting to enter Europe
illegally is greater than ever. In June, Nezha Chekrouni, Moroccan
Minister Delegate in Charge of Moroccans Residing Abroad, said that
over 4400 Moroccan minors were being hosted in Spanish welfare
centers by the end of 2005 and the numbers, she said, continue to
rise. Italy is experiencing a similar problem. According to
Carmela Godeau, Director of International Organization for
Migration's (IOM) Counter Trafficking Center in Rome, Moroccans make
up 20 percent of Italy's clandestine unaccompanied minor population.


4. (SBU) The reasons for the increase are simple: First, Morocco's
struggling economy; and second, the growing awareness that minors
are allowed to remain in many European countries under the
protection of the state while their adult counterparts are
immediately repatriated. The draw of employment in Europe looms
large in the minds of most Moroccan youth. Morocco's official
unemployment rate for urban males age 15-24 was 32 percent in 2006
with unofficial estimates up to 60 percent in some areas. According
to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) statistics, Morocco's
GNI per capita in 2005 was only 1,730 USD in comparison to Spain's
25,360 USD. Moreover, the two countries social and healthcare
opportunities mimic this economic divide. Young Moroccans often see
little or no future for themselves in their own country and turn
towards Spain, Italy or other European countries for a chance at a
brighter future.

5. (U) Furthermore, many parents encourage their children to
migrate with the hope of future remittances for the family remaining
in Morocco. (Note: Morocco recently announced that remittances from
Moroccans living abroad soared to USD 4.7 billion in the first eight
months of 2007, a 15.5 percent increase over the same period last
year. End Note.) The average age of these lone child migrants is
14-15 in Spain where the child is entitled to admittance into the
education system until the age of 16. In Italy however, the average
age, once 14-15 as in Spain, is currently 12-13. Moroccan minors
often travel to Italy using first, overland routes or air travel,
most often to Tunisia, and then onward by sea. Italian policy
states that if a child is registered in the Italian education system
for three years he is entitled to official working papers when he
turns 18. The younger children may not immediately generate and
income but Moroccans are willing to wait the few years until they
the minor can be legally employed at age 16, a practice that has
been in place until now.

------------
The Way Home

------------

6. (SBU) While Morocco and Spain have a very clear accord on the
return of adult illegal migrants within 24 hours of their
apprehension; the situation for minors is very different. According
to Spanish law, minors can only be returned if the family is located
and agrees to care for the child upon his return to Morocco or there
is a safe place for the minor to reside. However, if the minor is
determined to be neglected, his stay in Spain may be indefinite.
This determination is well known by most Moroccan families sending
their minor children to Spain. Families often offer evidence of
neglect to the Spanish social services checking the situation,
according to sources at the Spanish Embassy in Morocco, thus
insuring the child's continued residence in Spain.

7. (SBU) This "designation of neglect" caveat has caused a myriad
of problems for Spain and Italy as well. According to Laure
Lungarotti of the IOM's office in Rabat, repatriation of minors has
become a sticky subject for many reasons. She claims that some
minors are returned from Europe in accordance with the law into safe
situations. Others, unfortunately, are simply shipped back with no
family notification, no place to go, and no way to support
themselves. The majority of these young people, says Lungarotti,
end up living on the streets of Tangier or making a second or third
attempt at the dangerous crossing. As yet, the number of minors
being officially repatriated remains small. However, with a new
agreement between Morocco and Spain, and a recent accord signed with
Italy regarding the facilitation of minor repatriation, the
situation may soon be transformed leaving Morocco wondering what to
do with all these unaccompanied minors.

-----------------------
Changes on the Horizon?
-----------------------

8. (SBU) Morocco and the EU are now attempting to come to terms
over the problem of what to do with unaccompanied minors seem to be
coming to a resolution. Working together, Morocco and Spain opened
a "host center" in Tangier last year for youth being returned to
Morocco with no clear family ties or with family who refused to
accept their children's return. A similar center in Marrakech is
scheduled to open soon and there are discussions between the two
governments for more centers around the country. According to
Lungarotti, interestingly enough, the reaction to the centers has
been mixed. "Basically," she said, "Moroccans want the minors who
are returned to have a safe place to go but they don't actually want
them returned at all."

--------------------------------------------
EU Strategy-Attack the Problem at the Source
--------------------------------------------

9. (U) In order to stem the flow of illegal migration into Europe
from the south, the EU developed the EU Technical and Financial
Program in Favor of Third World Countries in the Field of Migration
and Asylum (AENEAS). As part of this program a number of agreements
were announced between Morocco and EU member states. One agreement
with Spain will provide funding to create a "socio-cultural" space
in Tangier. The center will provide training and cultural programs
geared towards keeping youth in the regions. The goal of program is
to help minors find employment through training. In another similar
agreement, the autonomous government of Catalonia signed a compact
with Morocco for USD 1.3 million to "prevent illegal migration and
promote social and professional integration." Not to be left out,
Italy is in the process of negotiating, through the IOM, a USD 5
million deal to build a youth training and education center in Beni
Milal, a source region for minors migrating to Italy. In addition,
they have several smaller projects aimed as keeping Moroccan minors
at home already underway.

--------------------------------------------- ----
Lack of Opportunity Touches More than Just Minors
--------------------------------------------- ----


10. (U) Comment: Dr. Mehdi Lahlou, professor of economics at
Rabat's National Institute of Statistics and Economics, believes
that as many as 3000-5000 professors, doctors and engineers migrate
annually, causing significant brain drain for Morocco and potential
long-term economic damage. On the other hand, Minister Chekrouni
has been quoted in the press as saying that "We don't have oil. Our
greatest resource, our most valuable export, is our human potential.
Europe needs our immigrants." Morocco is in a dilemma. The
country struggles with professionals leaving for opportunities
abroad, threatening economic growth and political stability.
Simultaneously, the GOM is keenly aware that the country is reliant
on the billions in remittances sent home each year from the more
than three million Moroccans living abroad. Morocco is walking a
fine line.

11. (SBU) The question for the youth of Morocco is not nearly so
complex. The perceived lack of opportunity for the future is
rampant. We spoke to a young 17 year old man last year who had a
brother in Italy and was extremely anxious to migrate himself.
Implying there was no future here for him, he said that "if there
was no border between Morocco and Spain, not even a dog would be
left." This sentiment is shared by many Moroccans. In order to
curb the ever growing phenomenon of minor migration the GOM needs to
increase job creation programs, as well as education and job
training for the young, giving them incentives to remain in Morocco
and participate in the country's economic development from home.
End Comment.

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