The Press is a fair representative of “public” space in terms of demonstrating, to a certain extent, the various opinions concerning a political debate. The question of sub-Saharan immigration occurs rather frequently in both the Arab and French press in Morocco. One sees both negative and positive remarks, but I assert that the public discourse, coming from both journalists and cited opinions from state authorities, is overwhelmingly negative towards the sub-Saharan migrant population. While the press has been used by human rights associations to publicly condemn the human rights violations that sub-Saharan migrants experience, both at a social and institutional level, it also a public space where negative dialogue appears.
A study of the press and its comments about sub-Saharan migrants conducted by Professor Houria Alami M’Chichi of AMERM, qualifies the reaction of the press to the sub-Saharan migrant population as “ambiguous.” There have been articles, notably in the francophone press, about the sub-Saharan migrant community that seek to shed light on the challenges and discrimination they face. However, it seems that the negative press promoting fear mongering and xenophobia not only infiltrates Moroccan society, but also the state. The press also offers an opportunity to view the reaction of the state, which appears to be promoting xenophobia. Here are some examples of negative press, coming from state actors and journalists.
1. An article published in Al-Massae in January 2012 claimed that sub-Saharan African women were largely responsible for the spread of HIV/AIDS in Morocco. The article asserts that sub-Saharan African women are fleeing war and poor conditions in sub-Saharan Africa and thus come to Morocco, turn to prostitution and affect Moroccan men with HIV/AIDS, who then infect their wives. It claimed that “Mfimba (a sex worker interviewed by al massae) and her friends (e.g. HIV positive migrants) are not greatly interested in the health of Moroccans since their time in Morocco is temporary, and they will gather enough money to continue to Europe, so they do their work (prostitution) without the slightest feeling of guilt.”
2. At the declaration of the new government, after the November 2011 elections put the Islamists Justice and Development Party into power, Prime Minister Abdel-Ilah Benkiran stated that, “le gouvernement renforcera de meme la securite des citoyens et de leurs biens par le biais de la lutte contre le crime, dans un cadre de respect des lois et sous le controle de l’autorite judiciaire, comme il continuera les efforts amorcés dans le domaine de la lutte contre des phenomenes qui representent un danger pour la societe ou qui ont un impact negative sur celle-ci, telles l’immigration clandestine et la drogue.“
3. The number one issue for the new Moroccan government is to combat the high levels of unemployment, especially among Moroccan youth. This issue is especially salient among Moroccans, and recently the PJD led coalition chose to blame the “influx of sub-Saharans,” and the economic crisis for this problem: “Le responsable gouvernemental estime, comme le rapporte fidèlement la MAP, que ‘nous assistons, fait de la crise économique et financière à deux phénomènes: d’un côté, le nombre important de ressortissants marocains touchés par la crise, et de l’autre, l’afflux de Sub-sahariens et l’intérêt grandissant affiché par des ressortissants des pays du Nord, pensant y trouver des niches insuffisamment exploitées.’”
4. Furthermore, Abdelouahed Souhail, a member of the USFP opposition party, followed suit when he asserted that, « Autant de phénomènes, ‘qui amplifient la crise de l’emploi au Maroc et peuvent aussi influer négativement sur les réalisations des politiques publiques nationales, en les rendant inefficientes et insuffisantes pour absorber l’important flux migratoire.’» Civil society actors rejected these claims and called on the Benkiran government to cease this fear mongering because these claims only put the sub-Saharan immigrant (and refugee population) in greater danger. The president of the Federal Group for Union and Democracy, Mr. Daidiaa, claimed that the Benkiran government had declared a virtual war against migrants. He demanded that the Parliament stop the promulgation of hatred and violence against migrants and show that Morocco is a hospitable, open, and tolerant country.
5. In September 2005, the weekly magazine Ashmal characterized African migrants as “black crickets” invading the country. Furthermore, they have been described as war criminals coming from Mali or Libya, according to discussions with activists.
6. Finally in November 2012, the cover of Maroc Hebdo, citing the “Black Peril” that migrants posed, provoked international outrage and allegations of racism.
As one can observe from these few examples (there are sadly many more), the “public space” in Morocco seems to be victim to fear mongering among member of the press, as well as the state. While condemnations from human rights groups and discussions of racism and violence against migrants in Morocco are also present in the press, this discussion of both positive and negative discourses in the “public space,” reveals that, while civil society(including some members of the press) are indeed attempting to challenge the negative discourses surrounding sub-Saharan migrants in Morocco, and thus also state hegemony, it does not appear that the government will change its xenophobic discourse or policy, concerning irregular migration. The following chapter will examine some of the reasons as to why this is the case.
This section addressed the generally positive opening up of civil society in Morocco and attempts at bridging the gap between the state and civil society in terms of human rights reforms, with a specific focus on migrant rights. It described the key civil society actors that support sub-Saharan migrants in Morocco, as well as their various strategies—whether they be humanitarian, social, cultural, or advocacy related.
The aim of this was to show the allocation of responsibilities among actors and the presence of both coordination and competition among the actors in terms of funding, independence vis-à-vis the authorities or intergovernmental organizations such as IOM and the UNHCR. Finally it stressed the “public space” in Morocco, embodied best by the press, which revealed both negative and positive discourses about sub-Saharan migrants. However, the examination of the side of the state in this debate also affirmed that, both policies and discourses coming from the state are overwhelmingly negative concerning the question of sub-Saharan irregular migration in Morocco. This further solidifies the argument that while civil society is attempting to challenge state hegemony on this issue, discursive and policy changes are unlikely at the present moment.
 Alami M’Chichi, Houria, “Les migrations des subsahariens au Maroc a travers la presse une relation a l’autre difficile,” in Migration, droits de l’homme et developpement, edted by Mehdi Lahlou, (Morocco : Friedrich Ebert Stitfunf), 2008.
 Salaheddine Lemaizi, “Rabat: Sombre destin des migrants subsahariens,” in L’Observateur, N-160, 2-8 March 2012, p 52-54. See also, « Le racisme des autre et le notre, »by Sana el Aji, http://www.panoramaroc.ma/fr/le-racisme-des-autres-et-le-notre-par-sanaa-el-aji/ May 24, 2012.
 Interview with Pierre Delagrange, via the Forum-Migrant, on June 10, 2012.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Fulbright Program , Morocco World News, nor other affiliated organizations
Anna Jacobs graduated from the University of Virginia Phi Beta Kappa in 2010. She studied Foreign Affairs,Government, and French Language and Literature. She conducted research in 2009 in both Morocco and Algeria for her undergraduate thesis entitled “Sub-Saharan Migration in the Maghreb: the reality of race in Morocco and Algeria.” She is Morocco World News co-editor.