The Moroccan FM said the Netherlands using the repatriation of dual nationals for political point scoring "can only be unhealthy with well-known ulterior motives."
Morocco’s Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita hit back at the Netherlands over “political opportunism” and game playing tactics as the operation to repatriate residents and citizens from Morocco to European countries continues.
“The Moroccan at home enjoys all the rights and assumes all the obligations like his compatriots. He does not need the protection, nor the supervision of the embassy of a third country,” Bourita told Maghreb Arab Press (MAP) on April 24.
The FM previously accused the Netherlands of failing to repatriate their citizens who also hold Moroccan citizenship. Bourita underlined that Morocco supports and facilitates the repatriation of dual nationals and Moroccans residing abroad during the pandemic.
Many dual nationals need to return home for family, work, or health reasons and this should be separate from political game playing, he emphasized.
The operation to repatriate dual nationals and non-Moroccan residents has been overwhelmingly positive, Bourita told MAP.
So far, 40 countries have worked with the Moroccan government to repatriate Moroccan residents and dual nationals.
“The operation took place in good conditions, except for a country which showed political opportunism,” the FM said.
According to an April 23 statement from the Dutch Foreign Ministry “everything is being done to get the Dutch home as soon as possible,” as reported in De Telegraaf.
The newspaper report alleged that Morocco was making repatriations more difficult due to existing tensions between the two countries.
“The country appears to be quite selective in allowing repatriation flights. British, Canadians and French can go there sparingly,” De Telegraaf reported.
“The stiff relationship between the Netherlands and Morocco may play a role. Rabat does not take back rejected nationals and is offended by The Hague for comments about the brutal crackdown on the Rif protests.”
Bourita cited Belgium’s measures to repatriate dual citizens as a positive example. The Netherlands, however, actively discriminated against Moroccan passport holders at the start of the repatriation operation.
After repatriating Dutch single nationality holders in 30 passenger planes, the Dutch state turned its sights on dual nationals “wanting to defend their rights before the Moroccan state,” according to MAP.
Bourita called for an apolitical approach to the current crisis, saying political point scoring on the question of dual nationality “can only be unhealthy with well-known ulterior motives.”
The FM’s comments came after Belgian Foreign Affairs Minister Phillipe Goffin released a statement on April 21 to thank Morocco for its cooperation during the repatriation process.
Goffin praised Morocco’s “excellent level of coordination” and the “positive dialogue” between Rabat and Brussels.
“First of all, I want to emphasize the excellent quality of relations between Belgium and Morocco. This is an element that I want to highlight first. Second element is that this crisis is marked by many events and we are confronted in our respective countries with the difficulty of managing the coronavirus. It is an international crisis,” Goffin told MAP.
The Belgian FM emphasized that the repatriation operation aimed to support “solely Belgian” and dual nationality residents.
After Morocco made the decision to suspend air travel on March 15 in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19, Dutch tourists left in Morocco felt abandoned by the government in the Netherlands.
In early April a group of Dutch tourists wrote an open letter to the government, calling for a more effective response to the crisis.
“We expected more from the Netherlands, much more,” the letter reads.
“We understand that this is a crisis and it can cause incredibly complicated diplomatic issues. We understand that Morocco closed its borders and took far-reaching measures to protect its citizens. But you are abandoning us.”
According to the letter, pregnant women who do not have access to the right medication are among the stranded Dutch, as well as people with ill relatives at home in the Netherlands.
In response to the calls from stranded Dutch nationals, the Netherlands’ Foreign Minister Stef Blok asked Morocco to allow the repatriation of the “distressed” citizens.“It’s a very reasonable request to let people go,” Blok said, as quoted by Dutch media outlet HLN.
The news outlet estimated that over 3,000 Dutch tourists were stranded in Morocco.
Dutch MP Sjoerd Sjoerdsman also commented on the situation, suggesting Morocco was to blame for the lack of action.
“It is unacceptable” to keep flights suspended, the MP said.
The Netherlands and Hirak Rif
The latest comments from the Moroccan FM are not the first signs of tension between Morocco and the Netherlands on the subject of foreign interference in domestic matters.
As recently as February, then-spokesperson of the Moroccan government Hassan Abyaba slammed the interference of the Dutch Parliament in Morocco’s internal affairs.
The statement came after MPs from the Dutch Parliament issued a report on Hirak Rif, the Moroccan popular protest movement that erupted following the death of local fishmonger Mohcine Fikri in October 2016 in Al Hoceima, northern Morocco.
The Dutch Parliament issued the report after a delegation from the Netherlands visited Al Hoceima in January.
The Dutch government has repeatedly called on Morocco to release activists whom Moroccan authorities arrested during the protests in the northern Rif area in 2017 and 2018.
Responding to the February report from Dutch MPs, the government spokesperson said Morocco is a sovereign country and “does not accept the interference of any party in its internal affairs.”
Morocco refuses to take lessons from any third party, Abyaba underlined.
The Moroccan FM also remarked on the move, saying: “[The situation in the Rif] is not a diplomatic question, and cannot be subject to a diplomatic discussion; it is an internal affair and under no circumstances can it be dealt with through discussions.”
Another source of tension between Rabat and Amsterdam is the ongoing case of Said Chaou, a Moroccan-Dutch drug lord who fled to the Netherlands in 2017 to avoid serving a prison sentence in Morocco.
Chao was the subject to two international arrest warrants for criminal conspiracy and international drug trafficking. The drug lord is also suspected of providing financial and logistical support to protesters during the Hirak Rif movement.
While Rabat has urged the Netherlands to extradite Chao so he can serve his sentence in Morocco, Dutch authorities continue to refuse to comply with the request.