Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons
The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, and other persons of concern. The government also provided funding to humanitarian organizations to provide social services to migrants, including refugees.
The government continued to make travel documents available to Sahrawis, and there were no reported cases of authorities preventing Sahrawis from traveling out of the country. The government encouraged the return of Sahrawi refugees from Algeria and elsewhere if they acknowledged the government’s authority over Western Sahara.
Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Refugees and asylum seekers, as well as migrants, were particularly vulnerable to abuse; however, since the 2014 and ongoing migrant regularization programs, there were fewer reports of mass arrests and abuse of sub-Saharan migrants by security forces. While human smuggling and trafficking appeared to increase due to difficulties with other routes, Moroccan authorities cooperated with Spanish authorities to break up trafficking networks and arrest traffickers. Parliament also passed legislation in 2016 to improve protections for victims. There were reports of government authorities arresting or detaining migrants, particularly around the Spanish enclave cities of Melilla and Ceuta, and forcibly relocating them to other parts of the country to deter attempts to cross illegally into the two enclaves.
PROTECTION OF REFUGEES
Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of refugee status. The government has historically deferred to UNHCR as the sole agency in the country entitled to perform refugee status determinations and verify asylum cases. UNHCR referred cases that meet the criteria for refugee recognition to the government’s interministerial Commission in Charge of Hearings for Asylum Seekers within the Bureau of Refugees and Stateless Persons. The government recognizes two types of asylum status: refugees designated according to the UNHCR statute and the “exceptional regularization of persons in irregular situation” under the 2016 migrant regularization program. The government continued to grant status to UNHCR-recognized refugees, temporary status to registered Syrians, and regularized migrant status to qualifying applicants under the migrant regularization program.
Access to Basic Services: Recognized refugees and migrants were able to work and access health care and education services, including publicly funded professional and vocational training. Requests on behalf of women and children receive automatic approval, with immediate access to education and healthcare. Asylum seekers were, however, sometimes unable to access the national health care system and continued to have little access to the judicial system until recognized as refugees.
Durable Solutions: In December 2016 the government launched the second phase of its migrant regularization program to provide legal status to migrants in exceptional circumstances. The program, similar to the 2014 campaign, grants legal status to foreign spouses and children of citizens and other legal residents of the country, as well as individuals with at least five years of residence in the country, a valid work contract, or chronic illness. As of October, 22,986 individuals had received status under the program, of the more than 25,000 requests submitted. Migrants and refugees may obtain Moroccan nationality if they meet the legal requirements of the Nationality Law and submit a request to the Ministry of Justice. The government facilitated the resettlement of recognized refugees to third countries when necessary, or voluntary returns, in cooperation with UNHCR.
Temporary Protection: The government also provided temporary protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees. On June 20, World Refugee Day, the king instructed the government to admit 28 Syrians who had been stranded between the borders of Morocco and Algeria for two months. Syrians and Yemenis benefit from “exceptional regularization” outside of the more permanent migrant regularization program.