Morocco has taken steadfast action against criminal networks operating in human trafficking thanks to a pro-active security approach that enabled the dismantling of 80 networks and foiling 50,000 illegal immigration attempts so far in 2017, said director of immigration at Morocco’s interior ministry, Khaled Zerouali.
This brings the number of busted human trafficking cells to 3000 since 2004, said Zerouali speaking at the 35th Forum of Presidents of the Legislative Bodies of Central America and the Caribbean Basin (FOPREL), hosted by Rabat with immigration as a salient theme.
Zerouali noted that the security measures taken by Morocco to tighten the noose on criminal networks is part of a comprehensive policy towards immigration that is underpinned by a humanitarian approach placing priority on the rights of immigrants.
He warned of the convergence of criminal networks and terrorist organizations in the Sahel, saying that several terrorist groups such as Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb found in human trafficking a lucrative activity to finance its terrorist schemes in the region.
In this regards, he said that terrorist organizations gain as much as $175 million from human trafficking activities. Hence, the need for a security approach that aims at countering this activity through tightening border control and monitoring, he insisted.
In the same vein, Zerouali stressed that addressing the threats posed by human trafficking networks requires close trans-border cooperation. While noting that Morocco’s southern borders remain insulated from any incursion and that the Sahara is the only region in the Sahel that remains at bay from terrorism, he deplored that the eastern borders with Algeria remain an area of concern mainly because of Algerian authorities reluctance to cooperate and their falling short of cracking down on human trafficking networks.
The Moroccan official highlighted the leading experience undertaken by Morocco to legalize the stay of illegal migrants in its territory. The legalization campaign has so far granted legal stay rights to more than 23,000 migrants, he said.
Zerouali added that Morocco has encouraged the voluntary return of migrants to their homelands provided their rights are protected and their integration prospects are preserved. He said that so far Morocco has facilitated the voluntary return of 22,000 migrants, mostly from Sub-Saharan Africa.