The association’s founders established “Les Amis du Maroc” in Brussels to strengthen the bond between the two countries.
Rotterdam – Francis Delperee, the president of “Les Amis du Maroc” (the Friends of Morocco) association, sent a video message on May 9 conveying admiration for and solidarity with Morocco over the COVID-19 crisis, particularly regarding the repatriation of Belgian citizens.
Delperee recalled creating the association to strengthen the link between the two states and described the contrast between the world as it was in December, when the association was launched, and as it is now.
“Friendship is not that of easy days. Friendship is also verified in the most difficult days, in times of crisis and in times of difficulty,” Delperee said. The former teacher at the Royal College of Rabat also welcomed “the bonds of solidarity that may have been established between Belgium and Morocco, especially in operations of Belgian and Belgian-Moroccan repatriation,” as quoted by Maghreb Arab Press (MAP).
Morocco made an exception to its rule against repatriating dual Belgian-Moroccan citizens, facilitating and expediting the repatriation process. Philippe Goffin, Belgian minister of foreign affairs, confirmed that his country managed to organize 25 repatriation flights between March 13, when Morocco suspended its air traffic with Belgium, and April 21. The number amounts to more than 1,500 Belgians safely returning home. Belgian officials have repeatedly expressed their thanks over the smooth operation.
Expressing a commitment to a cooperative relationship, Friends of Morocco founders launched the association in Brussels in December 2019. The organization’s president explained in his inaugural speech that the association aims for “a greater understanding of Belgian realities and Moroccan realities, on both sides of the Mediterranean.” Friends of Morocco also pledged to support the North African country in its ambitions for “progress and openness” in the role it plays for regional stability.
A total of 150 prominent public figures of Moroccan and Belgian descent, such as the Moroccan ambassador to Belgium and the Grand Duke of Luxembourg, alongside Parliament members, businesspeople, academics, journalists, and intellectuals, were present at the December 2019 inauguration gala.
Moroccans constitute approximately 4% of the Belgian population. Their pronounced migration started in the 1970s when many made the journey as labor workers, but the 20 years between 1990 and 2010 saw the number of Moroccans in Belgium double.