Additional information Morocco

Situation in Morocco

Morocco is located in Northern Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. The population (35,561,654) is mainly distributed along the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts. Most of the population (63.5%) live in urban regions, with 3,752,000 living in Casablanca. Almost all (99%) are Arab-Berber and identify as Muslim. The remaining 1% identify as Christian, Jewish, Baha’I, and other religions. Since 2017, social tensions in Morocco have increased due to lingering problems related to high youth unemployment, income inequality, limited access to health services and corruption. These social tensions often provoke protests in the less developed parts of the country.

Since the 1960s, Morocco has been one of the top countries for emigration. In 2014, it was reported that 2.8 million Morocco-born migrants resided abroad, most of them (2.4 million) in Europe. Additionally, the sum of remittances sent to Morocco is among the largest in the world. In 2011, for example, remittances amounted to €5.3 billion, most of this (81%) coming from European countries. The main destinations for Morocco emigrants include France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. In the 1980s, restrictions imposed by these four countries resulted in an increase of the migration flow to Italy and Spain. The more highly skilled workers moved to the United States and Canada. In the 1960s and 70s, Moroccan migrants tended to be low-skilled workers seeking employment mainly in agriculture, construction, and caregiving. Late in the 20th century, migrants primarily chose France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, and Spain. More recently, there has been a shift, as increasingly urban and literate Moroccans are migrating to the United States and Canada, especially Quebec. This shift also marks a change in attitudes from Moroccan migrants as guest workers, as increasingly they are anchoring themselves within the economy of their destination country as fully contributing members.


Over the last decade, Morocco has invested significantly in economic and social development through a series of political and civil reforms, such as strengthening civil liberties, decentralizing power, investing in infrastructural development and promoting gender equality. However, despite these reforms, Youth in Morocco grow up with a desire to migrate, with an imagination of going to a land elsewhere, seeking greater opportunities, social security, and a sense of freedom. According to the Arab Barometer report, nearly 70% of Moroccans under 30 express a desire to leave the country. In fact, Morocco ranks an impressive 23 out of 177 countries in the index of human flight and brain drain, despite the absence of war or political instability. France, Belgium, and Spain are the countries where most young Moroccans dream of, and leaving the country is considered an achievement. If it wasn’t for the hard border crossing restrictions and unaffordable visa requirements, Morocco would lose its young and promising generation, is what young Moroccans say.


Refugee route

Western Mediterranean route

The Western Mediterranean route refers to irregular arrivals in Spain, both via the Mediterranean Sea to mainland Spain and by land to the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in Northern Africa. Migrants transit through Morocco and Algeria to reach Spain. In 2018, the Western Mediterranean route became the most frequently used route into Europe. The European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) supports Spain in controlling its external borders on the mainland through joint maritime operations such as Operation Indalo. The officers, vessels and other surveillance assets deployed by the agency assist the national authorities with border surveillance and search and rescue.

Western African route

The Western African route refers to irregular arrivals in the Canary Islands, in the Atlantic Ocean. Migrants depart mainly from Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania, Senegal and The Gambia and embark on dangerous journeys along the West African coast to reach the Canary Islands. The distance covered ranges from less than 100 kilometers from the nearest point on the African coast to more than 1600 kilometers from The Gambia. (

2023 Messenia migrant boat disaster

On 14 June 2023, a fishing boat smuggling migrants sank in international waters in the Ionian Sea off the coast of Pylos, Messenia, Greece. The boat, which left Tobruk, Libya, on 10 June, carried an estimated 400 to 750 migrants. The search and rescue effort by Greek authorities rescued 104 survivors including Egyptians, Syrians, Pakistanis, Afghans, and Palestinians, and recovered 82 bodies, with hundreds more missing and presumed dead.

The Northern Africa to Italy sea route for migrants and refugees seeking to get to Europe has been declared the deadliest on Earth by the International Organization for Migration, which has recorded 21,000 deaths since 2014. Human smugglers crowd migrants into unseaworthy vessels, often in locked holds for days-long journeys. They head for Italy, across the sea from Libya, as it is closer to Western Europe than Greece. Such maritime smuggling routes into Europe have seen an increasing number of fatal incidents: 3,800 people died in 2022 while traversing migrant and refugee routes from the Middle East and North Africa, of whom 3,789 died on sea-based routes in and around the region. On 26 February 2023, at least 94 people died when a wooden boat from İzmir, Turkey, sank off Cutro in Southern Italy in the deadliest Mediterranean maritime incident of 2023 up to that point. (