Morocco rejects deal on immigrant centre

Saturday July 7 2018

Migrants wait to be rescued by the Aquarius rescue ship

Migrants wait to be rescued by the Aquarius rescue ship run by NGO SOS Mediterranee and Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) in the Mediterranean Sea on August 2, 2017. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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African and European countries appear to be pulling apart in the efforts to manage the ongoing Africa-Europe migration crisis.

Last week, the African Union (AU) agreed to set up a new African migration observatory body at the Moroccan capital of Rabat to help co-ordinate national policies on migration.

Although the AU's leadership did not directly address the matter at the just concluded summit in the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott whose main focus was security, trade and corruption, Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita announced that the North African nation’s proposal for the setting up of the African Observatory for Migration and Development (OAMD) had been accepted by the continental body.

"African leaders have taken the decision to task this important new tool with harmonising the national strategies of African states and improving interaction with partners,” Mr Bourita said.

The proposal to set up the centre was part of African Agenda on Migration — a non-binding document containing ideas, proposals and shared by official institutions, civil society organisations and researchers from Africa to address migration challenges —which Morocco presented to AU early this year.

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, the AU leader on migration who submitted the draft document to the 29th AU Summit in January, said the mission of the Observatory will be the exchange of information between African countries to promote management of migration flows.


However, Morocco rejected last week’s proposal by the AU to allow migrants rescued in international waters to request asylum in the EU from "regional disembarkation platforms" located outside Europe.

"Morocco strongly rejects this platform idea, which it considers inappropriate. It is an easy, counterproductive solution," Mr Bourita said.

At a summit in Brussels last week, European leaders agreed to a deal that would see EU countries voluntarily establishing "controlled centres" to process migrants' asylum claims and “regional disembarkation platforms" to process migrants outside the bloc — most likely in Northern African countries.

Morocco’s opposition to the deal now leaves the hard-fought EU deal with French President Emmanuel Macron who was at the centre of the negotiations, telling the BBC in his visit to Nigeria last week, that the deal wouldn’t work without co-operation from African countries.

Thousands of African migrants mainly from North and West Africa attempt to reach Europe through Libya — the main gateway — to escape poverty and civil wars. Thousands of them die while crossing the Mediterranean Sea.