The three guests each took different tones in approaching the issue of repatriation, but threaded between their testimonies was a shared concern: Why have other countries repatriated their citizens but not Morocco?
MWN Moderator Asmae Habchaoui kicked off the discussion by asking the three guests to compare Morocco’s efforts to send home tens of thousands of foreigners stranded within its borders with the government’s scant attempts to repatriate some 31,000 of its own citizens.
Karima Rhanem, an expert in public policy, strategic and digital communication, and diplomacy, took a balanced approach to the issue, highlighting an overall lack of communication on the part of the Moroccan government.
“I don’t think we will lean towards saying there is no goodwill to bring the citizens back, but I think the problem here is how the different interlocutors are communicating about the issue,” she said.
From the perspective of a communicator, Rhanem continued, the government’s silence on repatriation operations allowed Moroccans abroad to believe they had been forgotten.
“I don’t think anyone has a justified explanation [for the lack of repatriation],” she said. “The government should have given a transparent, clear justification, and even if they don’t have a plan, they should tell us the reasons why it took so much time.”
Dr. Salmane Tariq El Allami, a professor at Mohammed V University and an expert in media and humanities, said that in addition to a lack of management and the fear of a spike COVID-19 cases, a general lack of experience in responding to a global pandemic also hampered effective repatriation efforts. “We were not prepared to deal with this coronavirus,” he said.
He believes Morocco should use its experience with the COVID-19 crisis to anticipate and prepare adequate strategies to handle future crises and keep history from repeating itself.
Khaula Chafik, a representative of Moroccans stranded abroad, concurred with Rhanem in saying poor communication on behalf of Moroccan consulates abroad further adds to the issue. However, rather than playing the devil’s advocate, Chafik, who is stuck in the Maldives, pulled no punches in analyzing Morocco’s handling of its citizens abroad.
“Returning back to Morocco is a constitutional right. Nobody can tell us when we [can] go in or out and not informing us in advance that they were going to close the borders,” she argued.
“We had a lot of damages happen to us, and it is hard to recover from these damages,” she said, lamenting those who had lost their lives while barred from entering their homeland.
The three guests each took different tones in responding to the issue of repatriation, but threaded between their testimonies was, as Rhanem put it, a million-dollar question: Why have other countries been able to repatriate their citizens but not Morocco?
In their closing remarks, the guests stressed that the current crisis must not go to waste—Morocco must learn from the experience to improve transparency, clarity, and communication during future crises.
MWN is set to host live-stream discussions every week on our Facebook page to glean insight from a diverse array of guest speakers and share analyses of relevant topics with our audience.