Moroccan Emigrants, Ethnic Minorities and Development in Morocco: From Marginalization to Driving Force of Social Change

Friday, July 18, 2014: 10:45 AM
Room: 313+314
Oral Presentation
Nina SAHRAOUI , Working Lives Research Institute, London Metropolitan University, London, United Kingdom
This paper explores the relation between emigration and empowerment of Moroccan indigenous groups from the regions of Souss and Rif. It is based on semi-structured interviews conducted between September 2012 and January 2013 with six migrant community leaders engaged in transnational activities between France and Morocco, participant observation within a French-Moroccan NGO, as well as semi-structured interviews with three government officials and three migration scholars in Morocco. Regions inhabited by indigenous minorities, the Amazigh, in the North (Rif) and in the South (Souss) of Morocco, were essential sources of emigration in the 1960s and 1970s. These regions were particularly suspected of political unrest and large-scale emigration offered a safety valve as men left the country in significant numbers and began to send remittances back home (Lacroix, 2005). A few decades later, the engagement of diaspora-led NGOs started to play a role in the reconfiguration of power relationships in the Moroccan political and institutional landscape. As many Moroccan emigrants came from the most economically disadvantaged and politically marginalized regions, their engagement in development initiatives has called into question existing policies and role of the state. This paper makes the point that Moroccan communities abroad have undergone a process of political empowerment, from the marginalisation that characterized indigenous minorities in Morocco to the activism of NGOs in the diaspora.  Without necessarily building upon ‘ethnicity’, but simply by supporting their regions of origin, these emigrants brought about social and economic change to their communities and regions. It is therefore argued that diaspora activism needs to be taken into account in the analysis of democratisation processes in Morocco. Research findings are presented in the broader framework of migration and transnationalism studies, and more specifically draw on earlier contributions on the Moroccan diaspora (Belguendouz, 2006; Iskander, 2010; de Haas, 2006; Daoud, 1997, 2011; Khachani, 2008).