as a partner for regulating global migration flows

01 — The key questions for the Partner-Atlas

RELEVANCE: What relevance does Morocco have for Germany with regard to “regulating global migration flows”?

In recent years, Morocco has become an important partner for Germany with respect to migration issues. On the one hand, the Kingdom has assumed a special role within the African Union (AU) and the international community; on the other hand, it is itself one of the countries where migration is taking place in varying ways. In February 2019, Morocco presented a new migration policy for Africa at the AU and highlighted the prospect of development through migration. The new policy places particular emphasis on the fact that migration is not a security problem, and that there is, primarily, a need to combat the root causes of migration and flight.

Morocco is itself affected by various forms of migration. The western Mediterranean is one of the main refugee routes from Africa to Europe. Between Aug. 2021 and Jan. 2022, the EU border security agency Frontex registered 10.871 illegal crossings on the so-called Western Mediterranean route and 17.944 from West Africa to the Canary Islands. The refugees came mainly from Sub-Saharan Africa, Morocco and Algeria. In addition to the sea route to the Spanish mainland and the Canary Islands, the media are reporting in particular on the dangerous storming of the Spanish exclaves Ceuta and Melilla. The two cities are located on the Moroccan coast and have had massive border installations since the 1990sand cooperate with the Moroccan authorities.

WILLINGNESS: To what extent is Morocco willing to work with Germany in realising this interest?

Morocco’s geographical proximity to main-land Europe makes it a key partner in the EU’s Neighbourhood Policy. The partnership, which is based on the association agreement concluded in 2000, primarily includes support in the areas of social security, the development of democracy, access to the labour market and sustainable economic growth.

The topic of migration is of great interest within Moroccan society. For centuries, Morocco has been a country of origin, transit and destination for migrants and is therefore an important bridge between the African, Arab and European worlds. Many Moroccans have emigrated to Europe since Morocco’s independence in 1956. Today, about 5 million Moroccans live abroad, 76,000 of them in Germany. According to the law, Moroccans retain their nationality even if they permanently reside abroad. Their ties to the home country are often particularly strong. About a third of the tourists who visit Morocco every year actually originate from the country. Remittances and investments by Moroccans living abroad make this an influential group.

Given the close relationship with Europe and the important role migration plays for Morocco, the country is willing to work with international partners in this policy area. However, there are certain limits to this willingness to cooperate (repatriation issues, reception centres).

STATUS QUO: How close is Germany and Morocco’s current cooperation in this area?

The situation changed significantly with the introduction of the Schengen Agreement and the visa requirement (1991). A visa is now required for entry into neighbouring Europe – though individuals sometimes enter illegally. The fact that many Moroccans themselves are affected by migration has a major impact on their attitude towards the issue.

The majority of migrants arrive in Morocco from Sub-Saharan Africa, Syria, Iraq or the Middle East with the intention of travelling on to Europe. The situation has been difficult for these people, especially due to a tightening of the security law in 2003 which aimed at preventing irregular migration and smuggling. For most migrants, there was no access to a residence permit, legal work or welfare support.

This development was also viewed critically in Germany. Under pressure from civil society and migrant associations, the National Human Rights Commission investigated the situation. The report led to a significant change in asylum law in 2013. The government decided on four steps to improve the situation: regularisation of migrants, improved recognition of asylum seekers, a far-reaching integration policy, and the involvement of civil society. The first measures were initiated in 2014. Recognised refugees can now receive a temporary residence permit in Morocco after providing proof of hardship or a job. Because a national asylum system is still being developed, the procedure for recognising refugees has been taken over by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

POTENTIAL: What is the potential for strengthening the partnership between Germany and Morocco in this area?

Germany supports this process and has been able to expand its relations with the Kingdom in recent years. The high point of the cooperation was the joint 2017–2018 chairman-ship of the Global Forum on Migration and Development. This forum discussed issues such as fair integration in the labour market for migrants and recognised asylum seekers, along with the causes of migration. The forum made a major contribution to the signing of the UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (December 2018 in Marrakesh). This UN Compact for Migration obliges the signatory states to manage the situation of potential migrants in their country of origin in such a way that they can, possibly, remain there. Additionally, the human rights of migrants in the relevant transit and destination countries are supposed to be better protected.

Particularly Morocco’s role in the debates on migration within the AU and Morocco’s engagement in Africa hold great potential for a partnership between Germany and Morocco. Morocco has many years of experience with the various forms of migration and has been able to develop certain successful strategies. It is also in Germany’s interest to have deeper relations with the countries of West Africa, especially since the security policy situation in the Sahel, and the resulting migration, are of central importance for both countries.

POLICY RECOMMENDATION: What in German foreign policy has to change in order to fully exploit this potential?

The inherent conflict between domestic and foreign policy in Morocco should also play a role in controversial matters. Cooperation works well in some areas, but German foreign policy is reaching its limits on critical questions. A diplomatic crisis between both countries in 2021 brought cooperation to a standstill. There is no agreement at EU level on common asylum procedures. A large number of bilateral agreements complicates the issue. For example, Spain has concluded a number of agreements with Morocco on border security, which also cover the supply of arms. A development that is viewed critically in other European countries.

Analysis of Moroccan politics is difficult due to the complicated configuration of players, but it should nonetheless be attempted. In addition to the ministry of the interior, which plays the dominant role in security matters, there are a number of social processes that are driving a more humane development in the country. Civil society’s commitment to the rights of migrants in Morocco has demonstrated this. Morocco’s engagement at the international level would be another important opportunity for joint action; the results of the Global Forum and the Migration Compact offer a framework for action.

Especially, demands that alternatives to migration need to be offered locally, in the countries themselves, can only be met in cooperation with African countries. Since March 2020, Covid has demonstrated that the Moroccan health and social system is still inadequately developed. Migrants living in Morocco were particularly affected by the suspension of welfare assistance and the loss of informal jobs.

Steffen Krüger is head of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung’s office in Morocco.

Last Update: May 8, 2022

  • Interest: Regulating Global Migration Flows
  • Region: The Middle East and North Africa

02 — Foreign Office


Foreign Office Morocco
N. 24 Angle Av. Abdelkrim Benjelloun et Rue Mly. Yaacoub B.P. 559 Hassan-Rabat
10010 Rabat

03 — The region

The Middle East and North Africa



In recent years, Morocco has become an important partner for Germany with respect to migration issues. On the one hand, the Kingdom has assumed a special role within the African Union (AU) and the international community; on the other hand, it is itself one of the countries where migration is taking place in varying ways. In February 2019, Morocco presented a new migration policy for Africa at the AU and highlighted the prospect of development through migration. The new policy places particular emphasis on the fact that migration is not a security problem, and that there is, primarily, a need to combat the root causes of migration and flight.



Qatar, the second-smallest country in the Arab Gulf region (where Qatari citizens make up less than 15 percent of the total population), is located in a neighbourhood where fear of the hegemonic ambitions of larger states persists, as does the memory of the blockade imposed on the country by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt from 2017 to 2021. Against this backdrop, Qatar has spun a web of foreign policy alliances meant to ensure the emirate territorial security as well as greater geopolitical influence – a web of what are in fact contradictory alliances.

  • Population: 2.982.124
  • Capital: Doha


Germany and Israel maintain a close partnership based on common interests and shared values. The starting point for this special relationship and Germany’s acknowledgement of historical responsibility was the caesura of the Shoa. The way that the two statesmen Konrad Adenauer and David Ben-Gurion laid the foundation for these relations was described by former Bundestag President Norbert Lammert in a speech before the Knesset in 2015 as a “double stroke of historical luck”. 



Jordan has been considered an anchor of stability at least since the Arab Spring, which shook many countries in the region to their foundations. Maintaining this stability is of paramount interest to German foreign policy.

  • Population: 10.402.753
  • Capital: Amman


Although Libya is the fourth-largest country on the African continent, is located in the direct vicinity of Europe and is rich in natural resources, it has so far played quite a minor role as a German trading partner, apart from Germany’s substantial imports of oil. This is understandable in view of how power struggles among various factions plunged the country into chaos after the fall of Muammar Al-Gaddafi in 2011, resulting in several civil wars and laying waste to nearly all sectors of the economy.

  • Population: 7.056.971
  • Capital: Tripolis


The relevance of Saudi Arabia for Germany’s economic interests results from the country’s fundamental importance for stability and development in the Near and Middle East, its efforts to modernise and diversify its economy, as well as its oil wealth.

  • Population: 34,813,871
  • Capital: Riyadh


Iraq has the world’s fifth largest oil and twelfth largest natural gas reserves. The country is a founding member of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and, in recent years, has become its second largest producer. The Iraqi government is considering to expand the oil and gas sector in the coming years, thereby increasing production capacities even more, although experts as well as members of the government call for diversifying the Iraqi economic and energy sector.

  • Population: 40,263,275
  • Capital: Bagdad


As the largest country in Africa in terms of land area, linking the MENA region and the Sahel zone and as an immediate neighbour, Algeria has a natural relevance for Germany and Europe. The army enjoys a high status as an institution and defense spending is stable at 6% of GDP.

  • Population: 43,886,707
  • Capital: Alger


In many respects, Tunisia plays a special role in the MENA region. As Europe’s direct neighbour, trade, migrant workers and close political relations have left a strong European imprint on Tunisian society. Secularisation and modernisation have shaped Tunisia’s policies since independence and continue to have an impact today.

  • Population: 11,824128
  • Capital: Tunis


Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean and the northern edge of the Sahara, the Kingdom of Morocco is highly vulnerable to climate change and its negative consequences. The country put the issue on its own agenda early on and drafted ambitious plans. In 2016, Marrakech hosted the 22nd United Nations Climate Conference (COP22). Today, Morocco has even become a regional leader in the areas of climate protection and sustainability.

  • Population: 36,930,188
  • Capital: Rabat