With international borders closed, thousands of Moroccans are on an unpaid leave until they can travel back to their countries of residence.
Since Morocco closed its international borders in mid-March, local media extensively covered the struggles of foreigners stranded in Morocco and Moroccans stranded abroad. However, a third category of people has also been suffering for long in silence: Moroccans stranded in Morocco.
Unable to get back to their regular lives, Moroccans residing abroad stranded in Morocco are in the thousands and want their voice to be heard. With financial obligations abroad and additional expenses in Morocco, this category of Moroccans have found themselves in an unpleasant situation that only gets worse as their savings deplete day by day.
Morocco World News collected testimonies from Moroccans stuck in Morocco about their struggle and situation.
“We came to visit our parents, but we were shocked when international flights were suspended without any notification,” Sadik, a Moroccan educational executive working for the Emirati government, said.
Sudden, unexpected border closure
The majority of Moroccans stuck in the country expressed the same concern about how Moroccan authorities closed the international borders abruptly, without offering any sign prior to the decision.
“I wanted to cancel my vacation and get back to my job, but the airports closed suddenly without any notification. [Authorities] didn’t tell us. They didn’t give us time to return,” Nezha, a Moroccan woman working in the cosmetics industry in the UAE, told MWN.
Nezha, like many others, has found herself under constant harassment from her landlord and boss in the UAE: “Everyday, I receive messages from my landlord threatening to throw my belongings in the street if I don’t pay rent. My boss also calls me everyday, asking about when I will get back to work.”
“All countries have opened except you. What is going on in Morocco?” Nezha said, quoting her boss.
According to the testimony, Nezha’s employer is threatening to fire her and asks her to give remote training to candidates who might replace her, in exchange for “holding [her] position” until she travels back to the UAE.
Nezha, like a large number of Moroccans residing abroad, used to financially support her family in Morocco. However, due to this exceptional situation, the tides have turned and she has found herself in need of support from her mother.
“I cannot take it anymore … I used to be the one to send money to my mom since my father is dead,” Nezha said, unable to hold her tears.
“I have nowhere to go and I have nobody to support me. I just want to go back to work. I have nothing left,” she continued.
Doubled financial obligations
Another woman who preferred to remain anonymous explained that she is in a similar financial situation, except that she might face legal repercussions because of her 6-month unpaid leave.
“Every month, I receive warnings from the bank here in Morocco and in [my country of residence] because I cannot pay for my loans,” she told MWN.
“In Morocco, they are threatening to seize my house if I don’t pay. I bought the house for my parents. Where are they going to live if they seize it?” she continued.
“In [my country of residence], I will go to jail if I cannot pay my loans. Who is going to care about me if I’m thrown in jail?” the Moroccan woman asked rhetorically, in a tone full of uncertainty.
“I am at a stage where I just lock myself in a room to avoid seeing my family. I avoid my own daughter because I cannot handle it when she asks me for something and I tell her we cannot afford it,” she added, stressing how the current situation has exacted an “unimaginable toll” on her psyche.
Nabila, a commercial executive at an undisclosed airline company, has also been on an unpaid leave for nearly six months.
“We are tired emotionally, physically, and financially,” she told MWN.
“When it is about money, nobody cares about your circumstances,” she said, hinting at the rent and utilities she still has to pay in her country of residence.
In addition to Moroccan professionals who might lose their jobs because of the border closure, some Moroccans found themselves separated from their loved ones in a time when they need their support the most.
Oum Nawaf, a mother of two and pregnant with a third child, has found herself stuck with her children in Morocco while her husband is in the UAE, their country of residence.
“My children keep crying every morning asking about their father,” she told MWN.
The distressed mother has found herself suffering daily from anxiety attacks, thinking that her husband might end their marriage. The only hope that keeps her going is the yet unconfirmed rumor that Morocco might allow international travel in July.
“I know that it might not be true, but I need to believe in something,” she said.
Another Moroccan woman who preferred to remain anonymous is also in a similar situation, pregnant while her husband is in a different country. In addition to the psychological toll the situation has on her while already vulnerable, she is struggling financially because her medical insurance does not cover Morocco.
“All the money that my husband sends me goes to doctors and pharmacies. I do not have any medical insurance here,” she told MWN.
“I cannot even ask my husband for more money because I feel like he is going to divorce me because of this stressful situation,” she continued in a tone that utters her anxiety.
The future mother will also face administrative obstacles if she gives birth to her son or daughter in Morocco.
“If I give birth here, I won’t be able to register my baby until I get marriage documents from [my country of residence]. My newborn will remain without identity,” she said.
No more passiveness
The stressful situation has led Moroccans to regularly check local news outlets, hoping to read an announcement of borders reopening.
“We became obsessed. We are always checking the news, every morning, every night, every minute,” Samira, a mother of two whose husband is on unpaid leave because they cannot travel back to Dubai where he works, said.
“Are we going to stay here forever? Let’s suppose that they do not find a vaccine for COVID-19. Are airports going to remain closed indefinitely?” she asked.
The different stories, but shared struggle, have led these Moroccans to decide on voicing their pain together in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
On Monday, June 29, more than 100 Moroccans stranded in Morocco are planning to hold a sit-in in front of the ministry’s headquarters in Rabat.
Organized through social networks, these Moroccans are determined to protest until their demands are heard. However, whether authorities will respond with acts or just words remains to be seen.