It is a diplomatic success for the cabinet: Secretary of State Eric van der Burg (Justice and Security) has just had a meeting with the Moroccan Minister of the Interior about the return of rejected asylum seekers. For years, relations between the two countries were so bad that such a conversation was impossible.
Last year, the Netherlands again started forcibly deporting Moroccans who were not granted asylum. Previously, Morocco did not want to cooperate. Since July 2021, 125 people have been returned. In 42 cases, forced evictions were involved, the Ministry of Justice reports. It is already a huge improvement for the cabinet compared to the previous period when almost nothing was possible, but the Netherlands would like to send more people back. Discussions on this were held today in Rabat.
No interference in internal affairs
The Netherlands seems to be paying a price for the improved relations. In that summer of 2021, agreements were made with Morocco that were kept secret until recently. It was agreed, among other things, that The Hague will not interfere in Morocco’s internal affairs.
The cabinet no longer wants to be as outspoken as it was about what is going wrong in the country, it sounds behind the scenes in The Hague, but wants to conduct “effective” foreign policy. This would mean that the Netherlands would only speak out if it actually had results or if other European countries do the same.
Especially left-wing parties in the House of Representatives see this as a knee-jerk and fear that the Netherlands will no longer speak out on human rights in Morocco. For example, demonstrators who demand more rights for residents of the Rif area have regularly been arrested, as have journalists. Although the cabinet denies that it will remain silent about human rights, VVD MP Ruben Brekelmans acknowledged that the agreements with Morocco mean that water has been compromised: “You cannot rebuke Morocco in all kinds of ways and at the same time expect that we will of migration and security cooperation”.
Broekers-Knol was unable to speak to a minister
The new relationships make it possible to discuss migration at government level. Former State Secretary Ankie Broekers-Knol also urged such a consultation at the time, but she was always rejected by Morocco. In 2019, she sighed in the House of Representatives that she could travel to Morocco as a tourist, but that she would not get to speak to the right minister.
At the time, relations with Rabat were still bad, partly because former minister Blok had called the prison sentences given to the Rif demonstrators in Morocco ‘on the high side’.
Morocco participates in forced evictions
So today Van der Burg was welcome for a consultation with Minister Laftit. The State Secretary is pleased that Morocco is already cooperating with forced evictions. This ensures that the entire departure policy works better for Moroccans. The cabinet is now also allowed by the court to impose detention on foreigners because, thanks to Rabat’s cooperation, there is a prospect of deportation.
As a result of this detention, this group is less likely to disappear from the shelter and become illegal. The cabinet has also noticed that there is now a group of Moroccans who, with the fear image of forced departure, opt more quickly for voluntary departure.
‘Very good to talk personally, in an open atmosphere’
Van der Burg called today’s conversation “an important step in our strong relationship”. According to him, a lot has been invested in cooperation in recent times, including in the area of migration. He thought it was “very good to talk about this personally, in an open atmosphere today”.
It is not yet clear what the exact outcome of today’s conversation in Rabat is. It was already clear in advance that the Moroccans in turn would like a relaxation of the Dutch visa policy, so that it is easier to travel between the Netherlands and Morocco, for example for family visits. In any case, the countries will continue to discuss this.