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1.2.2009

Citizenship

Moroccan citizenship law is based on jus sanguis, or descent. In principle, Moroccan citizenship is automatically acquired by birth from at least one Moroccan parent.

With the introduction of a new family law in the early 2000s, Moroccan women are now also able to pass on their citizenship to their children. For foreign nationals, it is generally very difficult to acquire Moroccan citizenship. Moroccan citizenship law gives some groups the right to acquire Moroccan citizenship, such as children born in Morocco to foreign parents or female spouses of Moroccans and persons who have rendered "exceptional services" to Morocco.

Because Moroccan citizenship is practically inalienable, it is almost impossible for emigrants to relinquish citizenship, and Moroccan citizenship is automatically passed on to the second and even third generations. This means that Moroccans obtaining citizenship of their country of settlement cannot relinquish their Moroccan nationality, so that they automatically acquire dual citizenship.

The Moroccan state tries to strike a delicate balance between courting and controlling the expanding Moroccan Diaspora. The fundamental idea remains that Moroccan citizens abroad and their descendants are ultimately subjects of the Moroccan King. The authoritarian relationship between the Moroccan state and Moroccan migrants is also revealed by the paradoxical fact that the more positive, less repressive attitudes of the Moroccan state vis-à-vis its emigrants were only made possible through general policy reforms unilaterally decided upon by the King, the fact that the idea of extending voting rights for Moroccan citizens abroad has apparently been discarded without debate in parliament, and the fact that the future Conseil Supérieur de la Communauté marocaine à l´étranger (CSCME) contains non-elected members nominated by the King.

The main shift since 1990 has been a growing awareness within the Moroccan state apparatus that migrants' social and economic integration into destination countries does not have to undermine their contribution to Morocco's development. It has realised that efforts to counter migrants' integration abroad are rather counter productive. There has been an interesting reversal of perspectives and policy analysis. Economic and political integration is now considered to be a desirable development, because correctly-positioned migrants can play a key role in attracting investment and stimulating trade. More prosperous and integrated migrants are also in a better position to send larger sums of money to family and friends in Morocco. This reflects a shift in thinking in which the development contribution of migrants is not forcibly linked to return migration, as it has become increasingly clear that transnationally oriented and integrated migrants are perfectly able to engage with their countries of origin without necessarily returning.

Furthermore, political participation of Moroccan descendants in the destination countries is now encouraged instead of discouraged, because they can contribute to a more positive image of Moroccans abroad and is seen as potentially furthering Morocco's international interests. This shows that politically mobilised emigrants are increasingly considered a potential political instrument rather than a threat.

On several occasions, attempts by the Moroccan state to export its sovereignty and national ideology in order to foster links with migrant communities have created conflicts with politicians and governments of European receiving countries. For instance, sending Moroccan teachers abroad for classes in Arabic language and Moroccan culture has been seen by certain European politicians as an obstacle to integration, and remains controversial. Moreover, Morocco´s opposition to the relinquishing of Moroccan citizenship by migrants and their descendants is seen by some European politicians and governments as running counter to their integration policies.

Tensions on such issues have been particularly high with the Dutch government, for example. Besides refusing to incorporate Moroccan-paid teachers into its national education system, it refused to institutionalise its relations with the Moroccan religious authorities by allowing Imams sent and paid by the Moroccan government into the country. In 2004, the Dutch government decided to abolish 'own language and culture' classes. In the same year, the Dutch Minister for Integration and Immigration requested the Moroccan ambassador in the Netherlands to stop the practice of automatically granting Moroccan citizenship to Moroccan descendants. This was part of her efforts to abolish dual citizenship as a means to further migrants´ integration. The Moroccan authorities refused this request, which they perceived as unwanted interference in Morocco´s internal affairs. In 2005, the Dutch government officially requested the Moroccan state to enable Moroccans to renounce their citizenship as of the third generation, a request which was also refused. [1]

In 2006, right-wing Members of Parliament (MPs) publicly questioned the national loyalty of Khadija Arib, a Dutch Labour Party MP who is also one of the two Dutch-Moroccan members of the migration working-group of the CCDH. They argued that membership of this working-group, which advises the Moroccan King, is incompatible with her membership in the Dutch parliament because of conflicting loyalties and that she therefore had to choose. In Belgium, Fatiha Saidi, an MP for the Socialist Party declined an invitation to become member of the CCDH migration working-group because she did not want to work for institutions belonging to two different states.

While revealing a growing gap between official policies and the de facto transnational nature of the life and activities of many migrants, such examples also indicate the potentially conflicting sovereignty claims made by the Moroccan and European states.

Fußnoten

1.
See Belguendouz (2006).

Hein de Haas

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