In the Moroccan interest
an interview with Aboubakr Jamai
Aboubakr Jamai is editor of
Le Journal Hebdomadaire and Assahifa al-Ousbouiya,
published in Casablanca, Morocco.
BI: There is a huge gap in
population growth rates between southern Europe and North Africa. Where is
Jamai: I'm not sure the problem is really the demographic gap, but
rather the lack of economic growth in the southern Mediterranean. As for the
Maghreb, Tunisia and Morocco, the population growth rate has been reduced
substantially. In the Arab world the problem is more in Saudi Arabia. Yet
even in Morocco the population growth rate is stronger than the economic
BI: How do you assess the European Union's attempts to prevent
illegal migration from North Africa: the financial investments, legal
measures and police actions?
Jamai: To begin with, it is difficult to give a direct answer because
it's hard to pinpoint the most salient factor in the lack of economic
growth. For sure in Morocco we have a serious problem of lack of investment;
not the lack of foreign investment but rather national investment. So we're
dealing with a problem of the credibility of our government toward its own
business community. Having said that, there were wise criticisms directed
[also] toward the EU, because it is considered that the Europeans are not
giving sufficient money to facilitate the adjustment of our economies to the
free trade agreement without disrupting the social fabric of our society.
BI: Free trade has made things worse?
Jamai: Our economy is opening up gradually, but the European
competition means that our economies aren't competitive enough, leading to
more bankruptcy and layoffs and more migration pressures. To adjust, we need
money to restructure before being able to compete with EU industries. I
think the social ills in our country translate into terrorism. They are not
the only factor behind terrorism, but they are important.
BI: Southern Europeans complain of heavy illegal migration from and
via Morocco. What is Morocco doing about this?
Jamai: I'm not trying to whitewash what we're trying to do, but
except for the Atlantic and Mediterranean we don't have natural borders with
our black African neighbors; they have to come through Algeria and
Mauritania. Still, the Moroccan authorities are not really fighting illegal
migration [of Moroccans]. The receipts from our laborers abroad are the
biggest source of hard currency for Morocco. Socially speaking these people
in Italy, France and Spain are sustaining many people back home. So it's in
our interest to have as many workers abroad as possible.
The illegal immigration networks in Morocco are linked to the drug
trafficking networks. The drug and migration traffic is centered in north
Morocco, which has a history of conflict with the central government. That
region is also very underdeveloped and overpopulated compared to central
Morocco. There is a lack of will [in the Moroccan government] to fight [the
traffic], because to do so will cut out a main source of revenue, which
could lead to unrest and even an uprising. The cooperation with the EU must
address these problems too; we must find new sources of revenue for these
people in the north.
This whole system is extremely hypocritical. We should be talking about not
only the free circulation of goods but of human beings as well. Many
industries in Italy and Spain need the kind of labor our people provide. If
there were no demand, there would be no supply.
BI: Southern Europe is now increasingly importing manpower from
Eastern Europe; there is less demand for Moroccan manpower.
Jamai: The long term solution is for our country to provide enough
growth to absorb our youth. In the short term, even if Europe opens its
gates this won't solve all our problems. But it is important for our
civilization to have people interacting with others through immigration.
This helps close the gap intellectually and morally. From that perspective
it is important to keep the doors open, taking into account local European
conditions. I find there is a lack of leadership in Europe to convince the
population you need this.
BI: Now Moroccan migrants are suspected of terrorism in Spain--the
Madrid bombings. How will this affect relations?
Jamai: When you have terrorist attacks like these the first reaction
is for the [Spanish and Moroccan] police and secret services to cooperate,
and this is welcome. But in order to uproot terrorism and "dry the swamp"
you have to go to the roots, which are ideological but also socioeconomic.
This means that now in a very negative manner Morocco is at the center of
western attention as a producer of terrorism. While the numbers [of
terrorists] are small vis-a-vis 30 million Moroccans, still, all the
Casablanca suicide bombers were home grown and never even left the country.
[Not surprisingly], the Madrid bombers come from north Morocco.
Moroccans are now playing an important role, at least as foot soldiers, in
al-Qaeda. We have to address the reason: 40 years of bad governance, lack of
economic growth. To dry the swamp we need to usher in a real era of reform,
thinking how to integrate Islamists into mainstream politics, open up
political space for them in order to win their hearts and minds.
The breeding ground is a large portion of the population that simply does
not trust the government. And the United States with its democratization
message has absolutely no credibility. There is a perception of imbalance in
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in Iraq. The question of the credibility
of the message is extremely important.
Crossing the Sahara is turning into a huge, continental business...
In Spain, Moroccans are at the bottom of the list of sympathy towards
haZfonbonim & the South:
Demography of the Israel-Palestine
"Northern" Israel is sitting next to a demographic "southern" time bomb in
the Gaza Strip...