Moroccan labour migrants

History: Moroccan labour migrants since the mid-1980s

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This combination of factors explains why many migrants decided to stay on the safe side, that is, in Europe. Paradoxically, the recruitment freeze stimulated permanent settlement instead of the reverse. Large-scale family reunification heralded this shift from circular to more permanent migration. It was mainly through family reunification that the total population of Moroccans in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany continued to increase. Return migration has been low among Moroccans compared to other immigrant groups in Europe.

While family reunification was largely complete at the end of the 1980s, family formation gained significance as a major source of new migration from Morocco over the 1990s. For many Moroccans, marrying a partner in Europe has become the only option to enter the classic destination countries (France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany) legally. Significant proportions of the second-generation Moroccan descendants marry partners from the region of origin.9

Besides the increasing reliance on family migration, a second consequence of the implementation of restrictive immigration policies was an increase in undocumented migration to Europe. Especially during high economic growth in the 1990s, undocumented migrants were attracted by the increasing demand for cheap labour in agriculture, construction and the service sector. This went along with a diversification of migration destinations and the rather sudden rise of Spain and Italy as prime destination countries for new Moroccan labour migrants. Themselves former labour exporters, Spain and Italy have emerged as the main destination countries for new Moroccan labour migrants since the mid-1980s.10 Over the last decade, there has also been a notable increase of migration to Canada and the United States. These migrants tend to be highly skilled, and their migration is influenced by the high unemployment among high educated in Morocco.