Irregular sub-Saharan migrants in Morocco: illegality, immobility, uncertainty and ‘adventure’ in Rabat
Bachelet, Sebastien Rene George
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As a result of European externalization of the politics of migration, Southern and Eastern Mediterranean countries like Morocco are increasingly co-opted to deter asylum-seekers and other migrants. These latter, criminalized and labelled as ‘illegal’, are prevented from reaching a Europe whose economy nevertheless partially relies on the precarious and low-cost labour of sans-papiers. As Morocco shifts from a country of mainly emigration to also a country of ‘transit’ and immigration, thousands of Sub- Saharan migrants find themselves ‘stranded’, unable to go further, return or gain a meaningful legal status in Morocco. The research focuses on the two poor and densely populated neighbourhoods of Douar Hajja and Maadid, often called after the larger, adjacent neighbourhood Taqaddoum (‘progress’ in Arabic). Reputed to be violent and dangerous, they host a visible, (im)mobile population of irregular, sub-Saharan migrants struggling to cope with everyday life and (re)considering their uncertain migratory journeys. This research engages with recent critical debates in anthropology over ‘mobility’ and ‘illegalization’ to examine how ‘irregular’ sub-Saharan migrants cope with violent abuses and attempt to exert control over their lives in a Moroccan marginal neighbourhood. Exploring migrants’ imagination and hope, it focuses particularly on migrants’ circumscribed agency as well as emerging social relationships and political participation. Rather than adding to the profuse production of migration studies concepts, the thesis contends that migrants’ own articulations of notions such as ‘adventure’ and ‘objective’ offer an analytical tool to overcome some of the pitfalls of other concepts (e.g. transit, imagined community) which do not completely succeed in accounting for migrants’ experiences; their own ambiguities and limits are useful in uncovering some of the dilemmas faced by migrants in Morocco.