Why Study Migration in Morocco?

Souad Eddouada, PhD, is the academic director of SIT’s Morocco: Migration and Transnational Identity program. Below, we talk with Souad about her program.

Dunes in Western Sahara

Dunes in Western Sahara

SIT Study Abroad: What makes this program unique?

Souad Eddouada: The program’s uniqueness stems from the program’s central theme: mobility from and to Morocco. The program focuses simultaneously on Morocco’s European and African borders. There’s a growing number of migrants from Africa, south of the Sahara, as well as reverse migration from European neighbor countries, return Moroccan migration, and refugees and asylum seekers from and to Morocco. Thus, the program looks at south-south, north-south, and south-north mobilities and their impact on local cultures and global politics as well as Morocco’s economic and cultural relationships with Africa and Europe.

SIT: Why is the issue of migration in Morocco so important?

SE: After having been a migrant-sending country to Europe, Morocco is now becoming a destination for refugees from south-of-the-Sahara Africa and migrants/expats from Europe. Being at the crossroads between Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, Morocco’s diverse history, culture, and politics are now being highlighted by the number of migrants who are trying to reach fortress Europe through the Moroccan-Spanish borders as well as those who are settling in the country.

In addition, students get to learn about the specificities of Moroccan policies towards migrants and refugees. Because of the pressure coming from international human rights organizations, the country is adopting policies and reforming its legislation in order to accommodate the number of migrants on its land.

These changes are very recent. Morocco showed willingness last September to adopt migration policies to its refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers from Africa, south of the Sahara. This was the result of international and national NGOs reports on a number of incidents of police violence as well as racism against these migrants. The recent changes in the Moroccan government include for the first time a department in charge of migration. The previous governmental offices were only concerned with Moroccan residents abroad.

SIT students performing a community service project during their village stay

SIT students performing a community service project during their village stay

SIT: What are the benefits of studying migration in Morocco?

SE: The program adopts an experiential learning approach where students learn from experience and have access to firsthand knowledge. Students learn about migration from Africa, south of the Sahara, through meetings with undocumented migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in Morocco and through visits to NGOs working with migrants and policy makers on mobility issues. The program’s excursions take us to the main migration sending and receiving zones in the northeast on the borders with the Spanish enclave Mellilia, to the Netherlands to learn about a host country of Moroccan migration, and then to a village stay in the foothills of the Atlas mountains to learn about one of the most important sending zones of clandestine migration to Europe.

SIT: What kinds of students would find this program relevant?

SE: The program looks at mobility from multi-disciplinary perspectives and would, therefore, be relevant to students interested in exploring the mobility of people, ideas, and cultures. Students with families who have migrated are especially affected by the program experience because of personal reasons, but students who have not experienced a culture of migration also will learn how to put a human face on international media reports on mobility stories.

Students doing religious studies would also find this program relevant. In fact, one of the thematic seminars modules is titled Religion, Gender, and Mobility, and we address very specifically the connection between migration and religion. Morocco hosts various Sufi brotherhoods and is, therefore, a spiritual destination for people, especially from Africa, south of the Sahara. In addition to the fact that Islam and Judaism constitute two of the main components of Moroccan identities and cultures, Christian faith is more and more visible as a result of Christian refugees and migrants from Africa and Europe.

SIT: What do you find most exciting about your program?

SE: One of the most exciting aspects of the program is the meeting of different cultures and the ways in which that translates into students’ Independent Study Projects (ISPs). Our excursions to the village in the Atlas foothills, the Spanish-Moroccan border lands, and the Netherlands take us to rarely visited places, and students learn about family, individual, and community stories as they are told by people who experienced the risks of clandestine migration, human rights abuses, human trafficking, and difficult access to refugee status, healthcare, and housing. Students’ ISPs very often develop into senior theses, internships, and sometimes work opportunities where the students get to apply the knowledge they acquired on the impact of mobility on micro and macro levels on a family in a small village in Morocco and also on global politics and economic asymmetries between the Global South and the North.

Students with their host families

Students with their host families

SIT: If there is one thing you want students to take away from your program, what is it?

SE: The program has a wide network of NGOs, activists, policy-making institutions, scholars, and artists, and students have access to all the program’s facilities to learn from experience. They are their own teachers before they become independent researchers in a totally unfamiliar setting. My role is to facilitate and support the students’ learning experience and growth into authorities of the topic of their choice.

Learn more about the Morocco: Migration and Transnational Identity program.

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