Tuesday 17 October 2017

Migrant workers’ rights in Morocco: developing a proposal

This next story, represent my attempt to resolve a personal dilemma by tying together some the different elements explored in earlier blogs. I have been asked to help a small migrant association in Morocco respond to a grant application issued by the EU with the specific aim of helping migrants integrate into Morocco. The grant is politically motivated, since it supports EU policy of externalising its borders (in this case by getting Morocco to police the land and sea borders with Spain in order to reduce clandestine migration) and because it supports the Moroccan Monarch’s vision of welcoming and integrating migrants from sub-Saharan Africa into the country (and for which the government of Morocco has conducted two exceptional amnesties in 2014 and 2017 that allowed undocumented migrants to become registered). Morocco was recently readmitted into the African Union, and I suspect that the improved treatment of their fellow African’s may have played an important role. The migrant association played an important role throughout all this through its advocacy for improved migrant rights; by educating and raising awareness amongst migrants about the exceptional amnesties; and has gained real hands-on experience of the difficulties involved in achieving migrant integration.

Research I conducted earlier this year suggests that migrants and Moroccans share an important characteristic – neither have conceptualised Morocco as a migrant destination country. Certainly many sub-Saharan migrants with whom I spoke explained that they often felt harassed or threatened in Morocco and which contradicts the “terre d’acceuil” image the country likes to project. Furthermore, this association has effectively run out of money, which means that it is at a critical point since my research also indicates that leadership amongst sub-Saharan African migrants depends almost exclusively on the leader’s ability to provide resources and support to their community. Thirdly, I am conscious of significant difficulties in communication, and this creates a pervading sense of distrust – between migrants and Moroccans, between migrants and Westerners, and even amongst migrants themselves. There are deeper issues at work here, which can probably only be explored at the level of the underlying institutional systems.

This migrant association is extremely well-networked both within Morocco and internationally and consequently discovers opportunities for grant funding. However, the nature of multi-dimensional poverty seems, much like the mythological figure of Tantalus whose reach for grapes that are just out of reach, to condemn both to an eternity of suffering. Grants are not neutral devices for combatting poverty since they require the acquisition and mastery of social technologies that this association does not currently possess. And the development processes that I am familiar with using and which are integral to any grant proposal do not appear to elicit the kinds of critical responses from my interlocutors at the migrants association that would allow me to help them further. We are not, in other words, turning together by engaging in a conversation. The Cynefin framework described in an earlier blog helps me here: if all concerned understood the social technology of grant applications, then we would find ourselves in the “simple” or “complicated” quadrants where either the relationship is obvious, or just requires “expert” knowledge. However, reflecting on my recent experiences gives me the insight that this situation is best described as “complex”, verging on “chaotic” and I have to acknowledge that any attempts at intervention represent attempts to explore this system, and do not construe action, since I cannot predict the outcomes.

This EU grant aims to integrate migrants economically into Morocco by facilitating access to employment, understood in terms of acquiring professional qualifications, securing paid employment, and establishing businesses. There is no mention of fundamental rights at work, let alone the importance of the right to organise and collective bargaining. This important omission suggests deeper institutional attitudes within the EU’s bureaucracy and accurately reflects Morocco’s own failure to ratify ILO Convention 87. There is an ethical dilemma as well that needs to be explored further. I have a deontological approach to fundamental rights (see blog) and believe that protecting these is always good, irrespective of the consequences. Furthermore, I also take a situationist approach as far as migrants in Morocco are concerned, in that – irrespective of any traditional prohibitions in Moroccan law for non-Moroccans to organise – I believe that it is strategically important for them to do so. The migrant association is different – they appear to be less concerned about morals, but have clear views on right or wrong depending on the practical outcome for migrants, suggesting a teleological approach to ethics within the absolutist quadrant. Acknowledging the differences in our respective positions is important because it provides clues as to what we value on a personal level – I can commit to supporting their efforts when I see progress towards the establishment of migrant collective structures; and the association can commit to conversing with me when they see real practical progress that meets migrants’ needs.

Here perhaps is a clue as to how to find a way of working with the migrants association on this EU grant proposal…

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