Friday, May 22, 2009

French People of Moroccan Ancestry "Returning" To Morocco and Nigerian Immigrants Trying to Leave

Here are two different articles dealing with movement in,out, and around Morocco. One, from the Wall Street Journal, presents the case of French citizens of Moroccan background who have better job prospects in Morocco than they do in France and the other, from This Day Online, is about Nigerian immigrants who are sometimes held against their will in Morocco as a part of human smuggling operations and who hope to return to Nigeria.


* MAY 22, 2009

In France, Immigrant Offspring Return to Ancestral Homelands


PARIS -- Nawal El Kahlaoui grew up near Paris as the daughter of a mechanic who left Morocco to seek a better life in France. But after finishing her university studies here, Ms. Kahlaoui moved back to Morocco to find work.

"I love Morocco, as the country gave me a chance," says the 35-year-old retail consultant in Casablanca. "It's a land of opportunity."

A growing number of well-educated French people of immigrant backgrounds are returning to their parents' homelands. There are no official figures on the number of "returnees," and government officials, scholars and employment agencies say the number is small. Still, this gradual U-turn reflects a relative decline in the desirability of life in parts of Europe, compared with some developing countries.

Mass immigration to France started in the 1960s, as the economy grew strongly, creating jobs. In addition to migrants from southern Europe, workers came from France's former colonies, in particular Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.

As France's economy slowed in subsequent decades, however, unemployment rose, and hasn't dipped below 7% for the past quarter of a century. In recent years, the jobless rate for immigrants has been around twice that of non-immigrants. Now that France is in recession, the first jobs to go are often those filled by minorities.

Most of the French "returnees" are of Moroccan background, according to people who have studied the phenomenon, though there is also a trickle to other former French colonies, such as Algeria and Vietnam. In 2002, Rabat set up a "Ministry for the Overseas Moroccan Community," to encourage émigrés to return and invest their skills in their native land.

Morocco is also becoming more open and prosperous. Overhauls under King Mohammad VI, who ascended to the throne in 1999, have improved freedom of expression and women's rights. In addition, the country has formed free-trade agreements with the U.S. and the European Union. The economy expanded at an average of more than 4% from 2000 to 2008, and even this year is expected to post growth higher than that. While a large number of rural poor keep Morocco relatively low in international measures of economic prosperity, city life can be good for better-off residents.

Life can be better than in France. Surveys show that in France, applicants for a job have around a third the chance of getting a reply if their name sounds Arab or African as they do with a more traditional French name.

But no one knows the exact extent of inequality: The French Republic's doctrine that everyone is equal has so far ruled out the collection of statistics on race and religion. As a result, unlike in the U.S., there are no detailed data on how many French people are black, Arab or Asian -- and how they fare in education and work.

Opponents say that such an ethnic census would divide society by validating the existence of groups based on race and religion.

President Nicolas Sarkozy, acknowledging the problem, said before his 2007 election that he wanted better ways to measure discrimination, and in December he appointed a commissioner for diversity. Algerian-born Yazid Sabeg recently published a report in which he recommended that people be allowed to identify -- but not in a mandatory way -- which ethnic group they belong to on official documents.

"We need to measure the negative situation that is the result of different appearances," Mr. Sabeg said in a recent interview in his office on Paris's Left Bank. "It's very important for France to get out of its fantasy that there is no discrimination."

A French education is highly valued in former colonies, and salaries are good relative to the cost of living.

In Morocco, former émigrés are very welcome. Big European companies have been actively recruiting French-educated staff for their units there over the past three or four years, says Jamal Belahrach, president of the North African operations of job agency Manpower. The recruits find they can rise faster in their careers than they would have in France -- and are surprised to find a country different from the one their parents left. "There's a generation who didn't see Morocco in the past, and now sees the modern Morocco," he says.

Barka Biye's parents had moved to France from Morocco when she was just two months old. Ms. Biye graduated in law from the University of Paris, and then worked for several years in insurance. In 2007, she decided to look for a job in Morocco. She found one with a French insurance company in Casablanca in just two weeks.

"I thought I could play my part in the evolution of a country going through big changes," she says. "Morocco is expanding fast, and the companies who set up there want managers educated in Europe and at the same time capable of understanding the country's culture."

When Ms. El Kahlaoui was job-hunting in the late 1990s, she had trouble finding an interesting job, even though she held an undergraduate degree in chemistry from the University of Paris and another in marketing from ESSEC, an elite business school.

When she asked a university careers adviser why she was having so much trouble, the woman gave her some advice: "She told me I had to change my name and address," says Ms. El Kahlaoui. The problem: Her name and address told potential employers she was from a typical North African immigrant background.

In Casablanca, Ms. El Kahlaoui started off working for French pharmaceuticals company Pierre Fabre and then German cosmetics group Beiersdorf before joining a small retail consultancy.

She says she's happy in Morocco, but being there makes her feel very French. "I will come back ," she says, "but only when the system can generally accept people like me.


Morocco: Sordid Lifestyles of Nigerian Illegal Immigrants


Chinwe Ochu who was in Rabat, Morocco recently tells the sordid life of Nigerian illegal immigrants in that country which revolves around drugs, rape, begging, tribal gangsterism, murder and other criminal activities. She also encountered one of the Nigerians who wants to go back home

Her spoken English is good. She would not strike you as someone who would abandon her studies in the university for an illegal stay abroad. I met Joy Peters, a 22 year-old secondary school graduate from Ememuri, Edo State at the Nigerian Embassy in Rabat, Morocco. She had given herself up for repatriation to Nigeria after her dreadful stay in Morocco.

Through a friend, she had met a man named 'Baba London' in Benin City, “who promised to take her to Spain to help his wife out in her boutique business.” According to her, the recklessness of the whole arrangement was that she did not know Baba London from Adam and did not ask the necessary questions; neither did she pay him any fees for the travel.

“My father is late and I normally help my mother in the farm. I am the last in the family. So I wanted to put one or two things together so that I can provide more money for us.” Two days after the meeting, she set off with him; in addition to two other girls from Edo State on the journey. “I did not know him. I didn't ask him any questions. He never told me that we were going to Morocco.”

She described to THISDAY the horrendous journey: to Morocco: “I left Nigeria on February 3, 2009. When we (ten of us) were going, we passed through the desert with a Maburro jeep. On our way, we met other people in Algeria and then we got to Morocco and stopped. We got to Morocco in April. It was a long journey. We took the desert road from Issalha to Wahkla to Oran to Algeria, because we faced deportation to Tisawhati. So, we spent almost three months on the road.”
When I asked what sustained them on the journey, she said: “He bought some food items; we were eating Geisha, bread and some juice on the way. We were three girls form Benin that Baba London took. I don't know where all the girls are right now because I was locked up immediately we got to Rabat, Morocco.

“I told him that this was not the Europe that we agreed upon and he said that I should not worry that from Morocco, we will pass through the sea to Europe. I became scared and told him that my mother was not aware of me leaving the house. I now told him that I am going back to Nigeria and he insisted that I should stay there and later I will be in Europe. I said no because I have heard stories that people used to die in the sea. That got me scared.”

Joy continued: “When he wanted to go back to Nigeria he handed me over to his friend, an Edo man named Ason, who was maltreating me. He said that he had spent six years in Morocco. That first night, he was nice. Then everything changed. I later found out that he does not have a work. He begs for a living. A lot of young Nigerian men beg for alms in Morocco to feed. He smokes Hashish and marijuana and comes back very drunk. He raped me all night and will invite his friends too. He said that he attended Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma and that he was an Eye cultist. That if I scream, he will cut me in pieces. When I refuse, he will beat me mercilessly and say that I do not respect his friends. He ties me up every time he goes out, hands and feet with shoe laces. It was really painful. When he comes back from his begging, he will bring the little food stuff he brought and I will cook just like his wife.”

Joy alleged that she made several attempts to escape Ason's grip, but she was not successful. “Once, I ran away and met an Igbo man who said that he does not want to get involved with these boys because they are dangerous; and he returned me to him.”
All indications pointed to the fact that she was sold to the said Ason as a sex slave. It was then Ason's responsibility to make contacts with other 'buyers' from Spain, who will in turn pay so much money for Joy. Just like the slave trade. Joy would overhear some men bargaining prices for her. She escaped when Ason forgot to lock the door one day and ran to an Ivorian woman in the neighbourhood, who equally begs for a living. She accommodated her until she was strong enough to go to the Nigerian Embassy.

According to her, at the Embassy, she is not even safe since the Ason has friends everywhere and would inform him of her whereabouts. “He will wait for me at the corner till he gets me. I have made him loose some money because no one has bought me already.”

Commenting on the present state of affairs, Mrs. Amina Garba, a Councillor at the Nigerian Embassy in Rabat, Morocco said the situation of Nigerian illegal immigrants in Morocco is really shameful and pathetic. She said the number of Nigerian citizens in the country is not definite due to the high incidence of unregistered arrivals. Garba said most of them are wanted people back in Nigeria. According to her, they are mostly felons who escaped the law from their various states in Nigeria and traveled through the desert road to North Africa.

“The unemployed Nigerians here beg for alms to feed themselves. They go to public places like the mosques, supermarkets carrying their babies and wearing tattered clothes. It's a difficult situation for us here. Most of them come here and continue with their various nefarious activities. They are hardened criminals. They normally demand what they call “passage money” from new Nigerian settlers into their neighbourhood. Failure to provide such fees often results in bloodshed.”

Another situation has reared its ugly head amongst the illegal Nigerian immigrants' community in Morocco-tribalism. Garba explained that “these Nigerians in Morocco have “houses,” according to tribes. Each tribe has a chairman that coordinates the group. Sometimes they have tribal wars amongst themselves that result in violence and bloodshed. Each and every house has own mafia and perpetuates violence. Recently, an Esan man killed an Igbo man over a dispute of 20 dirams (Moroccan currency).

“He was subsequently arrested and sentenced to twenty years in prison. The Igbos, instead of leaving the matter as it is, started their revenge scheme by kidnapping all Edo people that they could lay their hands on, raping, maiming and killing them.
“Reports have it that in Ouchda (a border town between Morocco and Algeria); there is an Igbo man called the 'National Lord'. He arranges for the kidnap of a large number of female illegal immigrants whom he locks up in rooms. While being raped, these women are videotaped and the videos sent to their relatives in Europe demanding ransom for their release. He is said to be rich and bribes his way out of prosecution,” Garba told THISDAY.

When asked what the Embassy is doing about this 'National Lord' and other nefarious Nigerians, Garba said “When the embassy sought more information on the said 'National Lord', nobody wanted anything to do with the investigation. Nobody wanted to reveal anything.”

The Councillor said that the Consular issue is the Embassy's most daunting challenge. She said that “if only the Nigerians can live peacefully amongst themselves . . . The Moroccan police sometimes say that they have let some Nigerians that are illegal immigrants go because they look poor and harassed. What they are bothered about is for them not to disrupt public peace.”
According to her, statistics have it that in the Casablanca prison, Nigerians are the second largest in number after the Moroccans- totaling over 100. Of this number, 60 are for drug-related offences, while the others are jailed for murder, maiming and violence of all sorts.

At the end of the day, Joy entreated to be taken back home to Nigeria, saying that she wanted to go back to school. “I wouldn't wish for what I went through for my enemy”, she said.

Is it not high time Nigerians stopped bringing shame to this great country and work for the common good of Nigeria? Although we might be lacking in basic infrastructure for a normal living, engaging in disgraceful conduct outside the shore of this country will contribute to the negative perception that pervades the average hardworking innocent Nigerian worldwide. Or are we not re- branding anymore?

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