The report is a working paper and cannot be quoted without permission from the authors.
Transnationalisation, Migration and Transformation:
Multi-Level Analysis of Migrant Transnationalism
7th Framework Programme
Socio-Economic Sciences and Humanities
COUNTRY REPORT (WP2)1:
Work directed by Aïssa Kadri
University of Paris 8
Interviews conducted by: Kamel Aoudjehane, Bruno Laffort, Khaled Mouna , Anna
In recent years, national identity has been one of the central topics in the political
debates in France. Difficult to define, This country report presents the preliminary
research results on transnationalism of Moroccan migrants in France. Main question is
to find out what kind of transnational spaces exist between France and Morocco, in
social, educational, political and economical fields and what kind of transnational life
styles exist. The analyses are based on narratives of 80 Moroccans who either live
permanently or sojourn regularly in France.
As each country team could identify the most important and interesting questions
regarding their specific context, in French report, the emphasis are put on motivations
for migration, remittances (both social and material) and on female migration. These
questions were chosen for following reasons. First, because dominant tone on
migration sees factor that motivate South-North migration in a partial way, emphasizing
the economical reasons behind migration.Yet, we know that in today's world, migration
is becoming more and more middle class phenomenon. Even undocumented migrants
need a certain financial capital to make their project come true. Although economical
reasons -unemployment, precarity and general insecurity in the country of origin -
should not be undermined either, it is a large qualitative data that allows to bring
nuances to the discussion and also to perceive migrants as humans, as individuals
with different aspirations and dreams. Seldom there is just one reason behind the
decision to migrate but it is often a cumulation of several factors. Second, as Morocco's
economy relies heavily on migrants' remittances, this field of transnational activity had
to be tackled in this report. In fact, it seems that the financial flows as well as social
remittances -flows of ideas and know-how, do not only move unilaterally from North to
South. Although it is true that for many migrants it is a question of honor to be able to
send money to the country of origin, or to create professional or associative projects
that help the country to develop, the data of this study shows that there are also
important flows towards France. For third, since Moroccan migration has become
increasingly feminine and today, women do not migrate only within the framework of
family migration, but more and more often independently and for professional reasons.
Yet, female migrants have to face many stereotypes. Life course interviews allowed to
shed light on female migratory processes from individual's perspective.
The history of Moroccan migration towards France can not be fully understood without
exploring the connection created by colonial relationship these two countries. Until its'
independence, Morocco was an immigration rather than emigration country. French
and Spanish Protectorat stimulated migration from French and Spanish metropoles. In
1952, there were approcimately 529 000 foreigners living in Morocco, which was about
5 % of its' total population. The largest group was the French with 325 000 persons, but
there were also Spaniards, Italians, Portugese and British, and smaller groups of other
foreigners. After independence, these foreigners started to leave the country little by
little. Morocco became independent in 1956.
The first Moroccans were hired in France in 1909 to work in the sugar industry in
Nantes region. They were recruited from the Souss region in South West Morocco.
Since then, Souss has been a major labour force 'reserve' for French with 80-90% of
all Moroccans labour migrants were Soussis in 1938, 70% in 1953 and 50% in 1966.
(Khachani, 2004:11-13; Gildas, 1999:345.) 14th September in 1918 the ” service of
colonial workers”was created and between 1914 and 1918 there were already 35 000
Moroccans in France. They worked in non-specialized fields for the profit of the army or
were mobilised in the ” indigenous army of North-Africans” (l'armée indigène nord-
africaine). (Khachani, 2004:15.) But after the War, out of 12 000 Moroccan soldiers in
France about 10 000 stayed after the war and the others were repatriated. (Chattou,
For Moroccans, labour migration started relatively late compared to Algerians who
were hired already from 1920s. When the war in Algeria started in 1954, the French
employers feared nationalist minded Algerian employees would riot. Therefore, they
stopped recruiting Algerians and started to recrute Moroccans instead. In 1963 France
and Morocco ratified a labor migration agreement. Migrants recruted between 1960s
and 1970s were mainly young men coming from rural or recently urbanized areas,
whereas earlier migration of 1930s and 1940s had mainly been composed of men in
their mid-fourties and older, married and with families in Morocco and whose stay in
France was expected to be for a limited period of time. (Chattou, 1999: 100-101.)
They were single and moved alone or in small groups. Later on, a large number of
them settled down in Western Europe on permanent basis, yet the number one
destination country for these new immigrants was France.
Ten years after the ratification of labour migration agreement this migration channel
was officially closed. This is one of the turning point in Moroccan migration to France,
with following consequences: the number of Moroccans in France increased 90%
within twelve years, feminisation of migration ( over 40% women within Moroccans in
France n 1980s, compared to 20% of women twenty years earlier) and increased
demand for French nationality. (Belbah & Veglia, 2003; Chattou & Belbah, 2002). Since
the 1980s, research literature on Magrebi migrants in France started to interest in
families and role of women within immigrants' family structure (Zehraoui, 1997). In
literature on migration, the family migration is constructed as the only framework for
female migration. Migrant is a priori male, probably labour migrant and women are
represented as either his daughters or wife. This incontestable pre-construction has set
the tone of migration research and has for long hindered serious studies on female
migration and labour migration of women to France.
The law of 9th October 1981 gave right to foreigners to have their own associations in
France by simple declaration, just as the French nationals. Migrants associations have
been studied as a mean of political and economical integration and as a medium of
integration. (Daoud, Z., 2002; Lacroix, T., 2005; Schnapper, D. & Gaspard, F., 1997;
Withol de Wenden & Leveau, R., 2001). From the political perspective, migrants'
association have been seen as means to learn citizenship and political participation.
(Geertz, 1998; De Moffarts, 1995; Leveau, 1991). The literature emphasizing the role
of the associations as motor of development in the country of origin increased since
1990s. (Quiminal, 1991; Daum, 1997; Lacroix, 2003)
Research literature on Moroccan migration to France from political perspective can be
characterized by two tendencies. First, it has largely focused on macro level analysis
without taking into account the effects on groups and individuals and second, it has
failed to show the political connection of the country of origin and the host country in
controlling migration flows.
It is important to note that although all Moroccan interviewed for this article are of
Muslim background (although not always actively religious or religous at all) Morocco
had the largest Jewish population of all the Arab countries until1948 the foundation of
Israel and there has been an important Jewish emigration from Morocco, mainly
towards France and Canada. Yet some interviewees bring up the importance of shared
cultural background of Moroccan Jews and Muslims in everyday life, whereas others
implicitly associate being Moroccan with being a Muslim.
Currently, majority of Moroccans in France live in Paris region (Ile-de-France) with 155
674 Moroccans. Second largest population can be found in Languedoc-Roussillon
region (40 547) and the third important area is Center of France (26 749).
Despite the evident transnational space spanning over France and Morocco with
connections to multiple other locations in the world, the mobility between the two
countries is not always unproblematic, as became evident in respondents' narratives.
3. Data and Methods
At the first phase of the fieldwork, 80 semi-structured interviews were conducted with
Moroccan migrants belonging to different migrant categories: labour migrants, marriage
migrants, student migrants etc. 80 participants were interviewed in Southern and
Northern France and in the Parisian region (76 Moroccans in which few of them are
French with Moroccan origins) and 4 native French (“ ).
returned migrants” The
interviews have lasted nearly five months (from February to June 2009). In order to
respect the deadlines, the interviews were carried out by 7 interviewers in France
(Paris and Lille) and by six others in Morocco (Fès, Meknès and Rabat). For the semi-
structured interviews, respondents were recruited according to the snow ball sampling
method, and the interviews were first recorded then transcribed. In Morocco, the
interviews were made in French (74) and in Arabic (6) and carried out during face-to-
face meetings except one which was done on the phone. In France, they were also
made both in French and Arabic and some of them on phone. The first part of the
analysis was done during the period starting from July to September 2009.
The first part of the research report was written based on this semi-structured
interviews. The analysis and the drafting of the enquiry report was done under a close
collaboration with the Moroccan team with which we had two common sessions and
continuous contact through E-mailing and telephone. This report contained the
- The methodological data
− The characteristics of the interviewed ( gender, age, the place of socialisation,
nationality, the immigration status and mobility, the evolution of the administrative
state, the arrival period, the age at the arrival period, marital status before and after
the arrival, the dominant family structure, school level and the impact of mobility,
language competence and professional status)
− -Migration and mobility within the French-Moroccan transnational space (different
categories of migrants, motivations for migration at the departure time, paths and
projects of mobility, capital of mobility, support during migration, obstacles and
difficulties met during the migration process, inter-ethnic marriage and migration,
typology of the migratory paths).
- The identity in the process of mobility (interaction with others and identifications,
feelings in the host country, intercultural contacts)
− -Transnational activities (frequency of movement and communication, competences
and skills developed during the transnational activity, typology of the links and the
transnational activity, advantages in keeping the transnational networks, research
paths to analyse and to explore on the issue of maintaining the transnational
− -Social, political and cultural insertion (political interest, political involvement)
The second phase of the study involved life course interviews with selected migrants.
Since the timetable of data collection for life course interviews was rather limited, all
life course interviews were conducted in Paris and Parisian suburbs.
At the first part of the study, most interviewees were recruted on the bases of their
transnational activities (for example, belonging to an association, having an enterprise
with transnational activities etc). At the second phase, importance was put on finding
migrants from different categories and life courses as well as having enough variety in
intensity of their transational activities. That allowed us to look also at the most
ordinary forms of transnationalism such as casual relationships with friends and
relatives, small scale remittances etc.
As for the first phase of the study, also for life course interviews the respondents were
chosen on bases of their belonging to different categories (students, ” style”
migrants2, health migrants, labour migrants, academics and professionals etc) and
attention was paid that they represent both sexes and different ages. Life course
interviews are aiming to provided deeper understanding of how migrants make sense
of their experiences and what kind of meanings they give to their migratory path when
reflecting on it a posteriori. Life course interviews are used here to illustrate individuals'
narratives on their life paths. The respondents to life course interviews were selected
keeping in mind two aspects: 1) to ensure enough variety in data with regard to
respondents' gender, social and educational background and migratory path and
motivation and 2) the types of their transnational activities.
Most respondents were recruted through snowball method through different mediators
such as common friends or colleagues or associations. Respondents were then invited
to present other people if they new some who would be willing to participate in this
research. Some respondents expressed their engagement in transnational activities
often within some institutional framework such as NGO or educational institution. But
embedded in these institutional connections we very often find a social and cultural
2 In this text, ” style migrants”refer to those migrants who put forward other than economic, professional or
family related reasons for emigration, such as seeking of adventure, interest in foreign culture, self-discovery or
artistic projects. This does not mean that there would not be other, perhaps even more important reasons for
migration, but the importance is given to people's own description about their motivations.
link. For example, visits to Morocco for associative of professional purposes gives at
the same time an occasion to pay a visit to family members and friends. Business
connections can be used to spread cultural knowledge about Morocco in France and
vice versa. Therefore it must be emphasizes that although categories are useful for
analytical purposes, the life paths of transnational migrants are not easy to put into
boxes. However, in order to respond to the research questions the data has been
analysed by looking closer at four fields of transnational activities: political, economical,
social and cultural.
The interviews took place either in public places such as cafés or parks, but also very
often at the responents' homes. Time spent with respondents allowed in fact to collect
rich ethnographic data with many informal discussions and observations, which can not
all be discussed within this report but will provide useful data for further studies.The
average duration of an interviews was one hour. As with semi-structured interviews, life
course interviews were transcribed and analysed with interpretive content analyses
method, by looking at different themses emerging from the narratives.
The themes were then organized and analyzed, aiming to respond to the research
questions. This method of analysis although widely use is also the one that is the most
problematic, particularly if it is limited to pick up themes and isolate them in order to
compare them with the ones found in other interviews. Thematic content analysis is
criticized for taking the contents of the words as the only signifiers. In short, the
accounts -or the fragments of the accounts- of the respondents risk to be used as a
stock of anecdotes and opinions in order to support the hypothesis and theoretical
framework of the study if interpreted as accounts of lived experiences (Demazière and
Dubar, 1997:19.). As the data collected for this study consist of migrants narratives of
their migratory experiences, they should also be understood as such, since the
framework and timetable of the study did not allow long term observations which could
have helped to analyse the narratives differently, by using triangulation of various type
of data. Therefore the approach suggested in this paper is to look at the interviews as
representations the respondents give of their current and past life situations.
At the first phase of the study, the semi-structured interviews were conducted in
different regions of France: in the North (Lille), in the South (Montpellier) and in the
capital city (Paris). The life course interviews were conducted only in Paris and its'
suburbs, where the majority of Moroccans in France inhabit. In order to protect the
intimacy of the respondents they are all presented with pseudonymes in this paper.
Since immigration continues to be in France a highly politicized issue it can not be
without consequences to any research conducted on topic. Several ethical issues
arise: who to interview? what are the motivations of those who accept to be
interviewed and those who refuse? How migrants think they are perceived by the
others in the society/societies, or by the researcher, for example? Some of the
respondents had been in sensitive situations, such as undocumented immigrant or
forced to marriage. For ethical reasons, all the respondents are presented with
pseudonymes in the text, and only the necessary background information is given to
protect their intimacy.
Main characteristics of individual people's transnational activities
The data showed that all respondents had connection with Morocco at least on some
level. On everyday life, transnational life style consisted of frequent phone calls or
connection through Internet with programmes such as Skype, Voip or MSN Messenger,
visits particularly at the season of festivities, following Moroccan media and sending
money or presents. On most intensive level it included making investments (such as
buying a house or starting an enterprise), participating in NGOs or professional
associations or living at least one part of the year in Morocco. In this chapter the closer
look is taken at the most common forms of transnational activities and reasons of their
The most common forms of transnational activities were:
1) Frequent visits. The most important character of 'everyday life transnationalism'
was frequent visits to Morocco, in average twice or three times a year. The importance
of frequent visits to Morocco was emphasized by most respondents. The reasons
migrants gave for the importance of frequent visits were climate (sunny and warm
weather as opposed to France where it rains more often, particularly since many of the
interviewed migrants were living in Northern parts of France), family atmosphere (all
the family members gather together for big feasts but also visit each others frequently
and spontaneously), easygoingness and different notion of time that allows one to fully
relax during the holidays, or necessity to be physically present in Morocco in order to
keep an eye on one's investments -for those who had them -and willingness to
maintain and create social ties. Particularly at the Ramadan period, when after day's
fasting it is important to gather with family and friends for ftour, the first meal of the day
at the sunset. Another important occasion to be physically present in Morocco as
mentionned by some interviewees was wedding parties. Taking part in wedding
celebration was an occasion to meet most of the family and friends at the same time.
Certain professional categories stood out when it comes to frequency and length of
visits in Morocco. For example, school teachers who have long summer holidays
and/or can organize their teaching schedule in a way that allows them to occasionally
leave for longer periods or travel frequently. For those who had investments in
Morocco, frequent visits were considered necessary in order to maintain relations with
people and stay 'connected'. This is the case of Noureddine and Djamila, a couple who
owns property in Morocco and are involved in transnational business. The couple has
three houses in Morocco, in three different cities which they use during their and they
remain regularly in contact with their colaborators in Morocco, because ” Morocco, if
you know the mentality, without contacts nothing will happen” .
Traveling back and forth was also easier for those artists and entrepreneurs whose
professional activities were located in both countries. Professional activities varied: one
respondent was doing French-Moroccan co-production of films, another one produced
theater plays and one organized weddings in the summer time, a few were engaged in
export business (either selling Moroccan products in France or French products in
Morocco, sometimes both), some had invested in real estate business and bought
apartments in Morocco which they rented forward, either to Moroccans or foreign
tourists. For married couples, frequency of visits depended also on partner's capacity
to travel. In this sense, if both spouses are on similar field of activities (artists, teachers,
researchers or entrepreneurs, for example) frequent visits are easier to organize.
If respondent's partner has family in France, the place where couple or family will
spend their holidays must be negotiated. Non-Moroccan partner is not always
motivated to travel to Morocco although for Moroccan partner is important to visit family
and friends. In these cases, combining visits with respondents professional activity may
provide a solution: ” had to conferences [in Morocco] one in November and one in
March and that was an occasion to see them [family in Morocco] since last summer I
didn't go as I spent my holidays here with family in Britanny , so it's not easy to visit
[Morocco] every year.”
(Samir, 46 years, married)
Regular visits to Morocco have been facilitated by improved low cost airline
connections between France and Morocco and this was mentionned in many
interviews. As one interviewee pointed out, ” is faster today to travel from Paris to
Casablanca [by air] than to travel from Casablanca to Agadir, in Southern Morocco, by
train. ””Travelling to Morocco has become so easy: airline ticket prices have
democratisized and the number of daily flights to Casablanca has increased.”(Male
respondent, 42). Not everybody flies though: even low-cost, flights remain expensive
for students, who often travel by bus. Travelling by one's own car is economically more
interesting also for families and those who have more things to carry than airlines
allow to take on board (see the chapter on material flows).
Despite the importance of visits in genral and relative easiness to cross the
Mediterranean to be in Morocco within couple of hours, there were some factors that
could influence the frequence of visits. For those respondents who did not visit
Morocco frequently the reasons were such as no family members or other social ties in
Morocco anymore, willingness to priviledge other travel destinations or major obstacles
such as being physically disabled to travel, complicated social relationships in Morocco
or being in an undocumented situation in France.
Person's legal status in France is one important factor: the more official the person's
status is in France (obtained nationality or residence permit, 'carte de séjour') the more
she has facilities to travel frequently to Morocco. Those with both Moroccan and
French nationalities are therefore in the most advantageous position when it comes to
border crossing. But there are other, culturally, socially or politically determined factors
which may cause that person does not visit Morocco as often as he could in theory.
One interviewee told that her husband who left Morocco as a political exile already
twenty years ago could not return in there because he would not feel safe there. For
another, homosexual respondent, return to Morocco was always complicated since he
had to face friends and family enquires about his family life. In fact, moving to France
had been only solution for him to live his life as homosexual and in a couple with
another man without his family in Morocco knowing about it. In this way, life in France
can be seen as a strategy to maintain appearances in Morocco. Also some other
narratives reflected migrants' worriers over 'what people may say' in Morocco. Two
student migrants confessed that they prefer not to go Morocco outside of the official
holiday season even if they had the opportunity, because that may give an occasion to
some people to gossip that they are ” really doing anything in France”, meaning
that people would suspect they are not studying and working.
2) Regular contacts by using telephone or Internet. Apart from frequent visits,
regular contacts through Internet and telephone were most often mentioned ways
of maintaining transnational ties. Regular contacts with friends and family
members back home by using Internet mediated communication (VoiP, Skype,
MSN Messenger, Facebook). Those who did not have Internet connection in their
house were planning to install it soon and in a meanwhile frequented Cyber Cafés
where they could use programs such as Skype, VoiP or MSN Messenger.
Sometimes they had had to first buy and install a computer into their parents or
relatives house in Morocco and maybe teach them how to use it. Internet mediated
communication, particularly the possibility to use webcam was praised by those
who had small children: they found it important that grandparents in Morocco can
receive motion picture of their grandchildren, which gives feeling of closeness.
Small enterprises, popularly called Taxiphones (small cabin telephone shop often
combined with a cyber café) are flourishing business in Paris and other big French
cities. They offer low price calls for Morocco and they were frequented by some
respondents. Few interviewees mentionned letters, but presents were frequently
3) Material and Financial Flows Material exhanges such as presents and money
transfers were all expressions of these border-crossing networks (see chapter on
material cross-border flows).
4) Networks of Associations and Institutions. Social networks existed not only on
personal level, but also on associational and institutional level. Many respondents
were active or at least showed interest towards associative work.
5) Transnational Enterprises and other professional networks Many respondents
gained their living in one form or another from their transnational living condition,
either in form of small scale enterprises or other type of professional connections
which allowed them to work in both countries. (See examples of transnational
enterprises in chapter below)
6) Flows of Ideas, Social Remittances Apart from financial and other types of
material flows, it can be said that migrants actively transmitted and 'carried' ideas
with them, both on professional and private levels.
Migration Channels and Motivation for Migration
Since France has received large numbers of Moroccan migrants for over a decade it is
not surprising that many interviewees had some kind of already existing family
connections in France. If that was the case, these connections facilitated the migration
process as well as made it easier to settle down in France. France was not always the
first EU country where the Moroccans came to settle down: several respondents had
already experiences of living in another country such as Belgium, Switzerland,
Netherlands, Spain, Denmark or Germany.
The phenomenon of undocumented migration from Morocco has gradually grown since
1974 when the official migration to France stopped. Due to the sensitivity of the topic,
few interviewees declared themselves undocumented and -for obvious reasons -the
undocumented migrants are in general more reluctant to participate in studies than
other migrant groups. Yet, when it comes to migration channels, there were
respondents who had experienced being undocumented immigrant for some period of
time, but by they time of the interviews, their situation had stabilized.
Whereas the dominant view on migration emphasizes the established migration
channels and the role of the community, qualitative data collected within TRANS-NET
project sheds light to alternative migration paths. For example, in case of respondents
belonging to sexual minorities, the preferance may be towards areas where there is
less migration. This also shows how social control operates across the national borders
having an impact on individual's choices.
Motivation for Migration and Migrant Categories
At the first look, migration from Morocco to France looks like a typical migration pattern
from South to North, motivated poverty and unemployment in the country of origin.
Mass unemployment and rapidly growing population in Morocco, low salaries and lack
of professional opportunities are certainly important reasons on economical level,
togethter with political problems related to the freedom of speech and undeveloped
civil society and general feel of frustration and injustice especially among the youth.
However, qualitative data and particularly migrants' life course interviews help to better
understand different individuals migratory paths and brings up nuances in their
In this chapter, various motivations for migrations are discussed, but not in an order of
importance or frequency. It is by the different motivations migrants can be categorized
as 'health migrants', 'marriage migrants', 'student migrants' etc., but it is important to
nkeep in mind that the categories are seldom clearly defined and often overlapping.
For example, as was the case for one respondent, arriving in France for studies but
also through family unification since parents were already in France, and getting
married soon after arrival in order to obtain nationality. Therefore, same person can be
at the same time 'family migrant', 'student migrant' and 'marriage migrant' as well as
other combinations are possible as well.
Seek for medical treatment for chronic illnesses is a motivation to arrive in France for
many migrants: yet most of the health migrants do not settle down in France, instead
they come regularly to spend time periods necessary for their treatments. In many
cases, health migrants have already family members in France. Among the
respondents, two types of health migrants can be identified: those who are 'shuttlers',
staying pernanently in Morocco but travelling frequently to France for longer periods to
receive treatments and those who settle down permanently because of their health
condition, as they estimate receiving better care in or need help from their family
members in France.
Youssef, 43, comes frequently to France for his eye problems which are treated in a
clinic in Northern France. As a child, he had an operation in Spain, which failed and
now, since 2006 he comes to France for treatments. Recently, he discovered another
health problem related to cholesterol and diabetes to which he also receives care.
When Youssef comes to France, he stays at his brothers place and helps him in his
restaurant, while staying in contact to Morocco by telephone, because he is a manager
of a café in his home town. Currently, his project is to settle down in France in order to
continue his treatments. To finance his stay, he is planning to open a restaurant in
France, with a help of his brother.
Another health migrant, 53 years old Mouna had never thought about migrating to
France until she had an accident in Southern Europe and became permanently
paralyzed. After the accident, she became dependent of her parents who lived in
France but whom she just used to visit frequently before her accident. Moving
permanently in France in 1985 was not difficult for administrative side, since she was
helped by an association for disabled people and therefore obtained her residence
permit within one month. Yet, her first three, four years in France were so difficult that
it is still hard for her to discuss those times without becoming emotional: ” lived with
my parents in sixth floor, in an apartment that was completely unsuitable for a disabled
person. You don't believe me, but I stayed three or four years in the appartment without
going out. We needed 10 years to find an appartment that was suitable and I could
finally feel myself a little bit autonomous like everybody else.”
Despite the enormous difficulties in the beginning, Mouna is still content that she was
able to move to France, particularly since she later on found a partner in France and
got married with a French man. She describes the fact that she now lives in France as
a tremendous chance for her as a disabled person: ” The situation of disabled people in
Morocco is shameful. There is no real state policy to improve the situation and this
results to hopelessness and suicides.”
Also other health migrants interviewed for this study believed that they get better cure
for their illnesses in France. As opposition to populist belief, health migrants are not
'welfare shoppers' but in many cases they pay high prices for their treatments in
France and do not benefit of social security at all.
Not all health problems are considered worth of a visa: one female respondent was
seeking for a cure to her infertility. Obtaining a visa at the first place turned out to be
almost impossible. ” them, it was nothing serious. When you have a cancer, that is
serious, but when a woman can not have children that is not serious. For me, it was
too hard, a real tragedy. Luckily, my husband stood by me.”(Layla, 28, Rabat)
She believes that the fact that the person taking care of her visa application was a
woman was the reason why she finally obtained her visa: ” think I was really lucky. I
was praying that a person in charge for my visa application would be a woman, and it
Although living and working permanently in Rabat, Layla stays longer periods in
Northern France where she is treated by a French doctor. Her Moroccan cousin has
provided help and support, and was the one who found her treating doctor. Although
the kind of treatment she is receiving in France is also available in Morocco, Layla
trusts more the health care system in France, due to absence of corruption:
” know that here [in France] a doctor will do his best to help you. There [in
Morocco] it's not necessarily the case, if you don't bring him presents...”
− Curiosity, Adventure and Search of Freedom
Although seek for adventure is not often mentionned as 'official' motivation for
migration, it is underpinning in many narratives, especially for migrants in their early
twenties. Migration process offers a possibility to get familiar with cultures other than
ones own, learn about different life styles ans self-discovery.
Mourad, 46 years old film maker arrived in France with a student visa in his twenties
explains. He remembers: ” wanted to study abroad, to go and see. Not just to
daydream about this thing called Europe, but to leave and go to see!” 45 years old
Moujab says that when he was still a schoolboy, he used to dream about other
countries and he was very much influenced by travel literature he was reading at that
time. Although he arrived in Europe as a student, with student visa, he said that studies
were for him a way to get in contact with other cultures.
Especially for women, but not only, migration offers a possibility to escape family's
control and obtain more freedom. With more freedom they do not necessarily mean
freedom of doing things which are officially condamned in a Muslim country, such as
drinking alcohol or having pre-marital relationships, but it can simply mean freedom of
choosing one's friends, learning to live independently and take one's own decisions
without being influenced by the others. For example, Loubna, 32, who moved first to
Germany as undocumented migrant and later on to France in 1999 with her French-
Moroccan spouse, admitted that already at young age, she had admiration for
immigrants living in France and she used to observe them when they returned to
morocco for their summer holidays: ” When I saw all these girls, well dressed with nice
make-up, who spoke French to each other, I also wanted to leave and become an
immigrant. It was a dream for me.”
For Loubna, destination country had not so much importance, it was rather the general
idea of 'Europe'. Since she had aunts who lived in Germany, she moved there with a
three months tourist visa and finds soon work in a restaurant. She stayed all together
three years in Germany as an undocumented migrant. She says that she has good
souvenirs from those times, although she missed her family. But she found friends of
her age and was able to go out with them as much as she liked, without family's
” was great for me, I had lots of fun, I went out and nobody said anything. Those were
great years.”It is interesting that especially female respondents emphasize their
curiosity towards other cultures and it has been an important factor in their decision to
migrate. In life course interviews, three female respondent mentionned that already
long before migrating they had a strong interest towards other cultures.
Decision to migrate can also be a way of rebelling against the parents. Several
respondents, especially those who arrived in 1980s for studies, told that they left to
France against their parents' will.
” was a little bit rebel. --- the way how my parents lived was way too traditional for
me, I wanted to leave because I didn't feel at ease in that environment.”(Momo, 41)
Although curiosity and seek of adventure are not necessarily the only motivations for
respondents, they are frequently mentionned and their importance should not be
undermined particularly when analyzing mobility of young people.
Cosmopolitan or Universalist Ideology
Related to the curiosity and seek of independence and adveture is a general world
view which can be described as 'cosmopolitan' or 'universalist'. Among the students,
professionals and artists there are several who declares themselves as 'cosmopolitans'
and would feel that living in only one country would deprive them from something
essential in life, namely 'openness to other cultures'. In these cases, it has not been so
much France as a country that has attracted them to move, but rather the general idea
of 'going to see how life is elsewhere', a curiosity towards unknown. For example,
Lamia, female migrant in her thirties who is currently working on her PhD in France,
considers herself as a 'citizen of world' and considers a Post-Doc in Lisbon, or perhaps
in Canada or USA.
For artists, possibility to travel and meet other people accross the national borders is
even a sine qua non of their work: ” he [an artist] is local or regional, he's lost, he can
even become a nationalist. I am rather for universalism and free spirit, I can not see
myself saying that I am 100% French or 100% Moroccan. When I am here I feel
French --- Honestly, I feel myself at ease in France as much as I feel myself at ease in
Universalist ideology was also frequent among the respondents who identified
themselves with leftist/Marxist movement: ” don't feel chauvinist concerning my
country of origin, or any form of nationalism... I feel myself universalist and I like to be
wherever I am. --- I am a marxist and internationalist, I feel myself at home wherever I
go.”says one respondent who was active in Marxist movement back in Morocco. For
Moujab, 45, the reason to join the leftist party was the international feeling in the
movement: ” That was the first thing that attracted me in Trotskyste movement, their
internationalism. To be internationalist is to feel at home everywhere. When I was in
Belgium, I felt at home, when I am in France I feel at home too, and in Morocco...and
when I was in Canada I felt at home too, everywhere I go I feel at home.”
− Frustration in the country of origin
Poverty and high unemployment rates among young people are obviously sources of
frustration for young people, but some migrants find the social and political atmosphere
in Morocco very frustrating. They talk about feeling of immobility, the impression that
nothing changes and develops, that there are no future perspectives for a valubale life.
For many, to migrate is the only way to overcome this frustration.
” course, it was also about rebelling, to say that we are here only to keep up the
walls, this feeling...but there was no way to channel this feeling of rebellion! There were
no newspapers or political movement to identify with. I come from a small town, from
the part that I call 'Forgotten Morocco' and there was basically nothing happening
there, it was really a cultural desert.”(Mourad, 46)
France is not always the first country of choice: sometimes it has been 'imposed' for
lack of possibilities to go elsewhere, for practical reasons or just by pure coincidence.
France is also becoming a country of transition on a migration process to North
America, for example. Particularly unmarried students are open for other countries as
well. ” am not xenophobic – I would go anywhere in the world, wherever I'll find my
place” confirms Mouloud, 28 years old PhD student.
Sometimes the decision to migrate has been taken very spontaneously, if there has
been a chance to seize or an offer for work or studies. Yet there are also cases of
several previous emigration attempts without succes. This was the case of 34 years old
Karim, who ended up marrying a second cousin, a French born Moroccan and in this
way finally succeed in his migration project. ” felt incapable for doing things in
Morocco. I always loved to work in trade, but in Morocco I didn't see many openings in
that field. I needed some capital to start with...and how to achieve that capital in
Morocco? It's really impossible. I needed a visa, I wanted to work for me and my family.
I wanted a better future for my children.”Before the occasion of achieving a visa as a
spouse of a French national, he had thought about all other possible migration
channels such as buying a working contract in Spain, to pay a place in a boat
smuggling migrants to Europe, or to pay a mariage blanc. None of this projects could
work out out for him since he could not afford them.
Culture of Migration – Influence of Peers
Resarch literature on migration talks about development of 'culture of migration' in the
regions where the only or one of few perspectives for upward social mobility and to
improve one's economical position is to emigrate. Status of an emigrant is high
andsought after. In French team's research data, there were some cases which would
fall into this category of migrants: leaving the country has been motivated by need to
earn one's living and help family members and encougared by the others who have left
earlier. This is for example the case of Aziz, who was having hard time in his small
home time in Northern Morocco. His parents were poor, they lived in a small
appartment and himself he quit school at the age of 11. Making once living was difficult
and he accumulated several small jobs. Since he was 13 or 14, he remembers having
had a dream of crossing the Mediterranean sea to go to Europe. His dream was
encouraged by friends and cousins who had already moved to France.
Among the respondents, large majority of married migrants -both men and women –
were married to a French national. Whereas in some cases they had initially arrived in
France for other reasons, some admitted that they had a project to migrate and
marriage with a French national had turned out to be the only possible migration
channel. The concept of 'mariage blanc'3 (sham marriage) is brought up in the
narratives as an existing phenomenon, but nobody admits having used this method for
obtaining a visa. One respondent admitted having considered marriage blanc, but had
to give up the idea for lack of money.
Although the idea of mariage blanc is recognised as a social phenomenon by all
respondents, it is still generally considered shameful and morally questionable. For
example Momo, 41, who met his French wife with Moroccan origins while he was
studying in France, put as a condition to his marriage that the couple would settle down
in Morocco. ” did not want people to think that I am marrying only to get the papers
and the French nationality.”Yet, for some others, one criteria for choosing one's partner
was his or her residence permit or French nationality. One respondent admitted that
he married a second cousin, resident in France, in order to migrate. But, his marriage
can hardly be considered as a 'marriage blanc' since he had not considered divorcing
after having obtained his residence permit in France.
Forced marriage was mentionned by one respondent. One female respondent told that
she arrived in France because her family forced her to marry one close family friend
when she was 19 years old. Although she had always dreamt about moving to France,
her migration process turned into nightmare. She arrived in Paris in 2006 and
managed to escape as her future spouse was stuck in the traffic jam and thus arrived
late to the airport where she was supposed to wait. ” asked a couple I met in the plain
to host me so that I can then join my family members in Dijon and I escaped with only
100€ in my pocket. That was the beginning of my adventure towards the struggle,
independence and success.”The marriage never took place and as a consequence,
she found herself as an unodcumented immigrant living in women's shelter in Paris. It
was finally after long period of precarity and unsecurity that he managed to regularise
her situation with a help of some members from the national student union, l'UNEF.
Moving to France through marriage is not always a simple process and in some cases,
transnational relationship lasts for years before the couple can finally settle down
together. This was the case for Ahmed, 43, who met his French wife of Algerian origin
in a holiday club in Marrakech where he was working as a sport instructor. Since
obtaining visa was nearly impossible for Ahmed, he future wife visited her frequently
during nearly four years in Morocco.
Family Migration or 'Family Tradition' of Migration
Family migrants can be roughly divided into two categories: for those who have moved
to France in order to join the members of their nuclear family and those who do not
3 'Mariage blanc' means marriage that exist only on paper in order to obtain residence permit. Usually this
practice involves monetary compensation for the spouse who is French national or residence, but it can be also
done against services or for free, to help a family member or a friend to migrate.
have close family in France at the moment they are moving but, other family members
have previously migrated. For some migrants, there have been other members of
family who migrated previously and therefore tendency to migrate can be considered
as a 'family tradition'. For example, parents may have studied in France and for them, it
is 'logic' that their children will also study in France.
Transnational family situation can occur as a consequence of financial difficulties or
parents' divorce, often both. Adellatif, 50, left Morocco when he was one year old and
his early childhood was spent partly in France, partly in Morocco. His father used to
work in many European countries before finally settling down in Paris. When he was
nine, his parents divorced and his mother was not capable to take him and his sister in
charge anymore. They were sent back to Morocco, where they grew up with their
grand-parents in Rabat. Going back in this situation was difficult. ” After my return to
Morocco, I went through lots of difficulties when it comes to adaptation, integration and
getting used to the new environment. I had language problems [ A. did not speak
Arabic at all], I felt isolation and absence of all that used to be familiar. In this situation,
the only idea I had was to go back to France.”Finally, when he turned 13, his mother
had enough of means to provide housing for her children and they returned to live in
Sometimes, family's connection with France is complex and far-reaching. This is the
case of one respondent whose Yemenite father obtained French nationality in 1930s
while working for a French national company in Djibouti. Later on married to a
Moroccan woman, he moved to France and later on brought his family to Southern
Professional Training or Internship
Some respondents had already completed their studies in Morocco and wanted to
obtain professional experience in France. This concerned particularly such professional
categories as engineers and medical doctors. Short term training courses or
internships led, in some cases, to work contract in France and settling down on more
or less permanent bases.
Karima is 29 years old Moroccan single female doctor who arrived to France first time
in 2006 to see her brother and at the same time, as a medical student, to get an
internship in a Parisian hospital. After internship, she decided to apply for a student
visa and continue her studies for a PhD in France as she estimates that the experience
in France will be very useful for her career in Morocco, where she intents to return after
Siham, 31, used to travel frequently to France while she was student in Morocco, since
her school and a chamber of commerce in Paris had an agreement which allowed her
to take part in seminars and professional trainings in France. Her travels between
France and Morocco allowed her to compare life perspectives in both countries and
this is how she started to think about moving to France. Siham can also be included in
'life style migrants' since she says: ” told myself that since I have a stable professional
situation in Morocco, if I will go to France it's not going to be to regress but to progress,
to be useful for myself and my family. My travels to this country have allowed me to
discover another culture, another way of life, another way of working and freedom to
act. I am Moroccan, I used to live and work in Morocco with a good salary compared to
many other professional categories, but I had the impression that we are not really
living there. The economical situation is catastrophic and for young people, the future is
blocked. They are 'keeping up the walls' in Casa and Rabat and other cities. And for
us, the girls, outsided of working hours and school we could not go out, to go for a
walk, to party, or to live, in other terms!.”
Exile and Other Political Reasons
Feelings of frustration discussed earlier regarding the social situation in Morocco were
often described as frustration about the political situation in particular. Although there
were few political exiles among the respondents, many migrants in general had the
same feeling about lack of civic rights and hope in general and this has been at least
partially one factor pushing them to move.
”There was not enough of political movement to give us hope and attachement to the
country. The only ties were those towards family and friends, and those ties you can
keep wherever you are. In Morocco, we were all lost in the mass, in a manner the
Moroccan state treated it's residents. The notion of citizen did not exist, so as an
individual you did not exist, you were a mere subject... So when you arrive in a foreign
country, even if you are not received with a red carpet, you feel the difference!”
Tariq, 60, left Morocco in 1985 and arrived to France as undocumented migrant
through Spain. For him, there was no other choice than to leave the country, since he
had took part in radical leftist activities in Morocco and was searched by police. The
organization to which he belonged to decided that France would be safer ground for
him and the organization has a section in France. He arrived to France as an
undocumented migrant, but obtained a status of political exile in France.
Since most of the respondents are post-labor migration generation, many of them have
arrived to France with student visas. Decision to study particularly in France has been
motivated by many factors: willingness to study on a field that is not possible or does
not exist in Morocco, high status and career perspectives associated to European
higher education and diploma obtained abroad, possibility to find either a permanent
work position in France after studies or just an internship to gain experience which will
help to find employment in Morocco. The high rates of unemployment in Morocco
remains, of course, a very determining factor.
For many Moroccans, idea of studying abroad is appealing. The choice to go to France
can be determined by many factors: it's geographical closeness compared to North
America, French influence in Moroccan schooling system, French language skills or a
sholarship obtained for France. Many respondents considered France as 'logic'
Samir, 46, who arrived in France for studies in 1985 explains why France: ” received a
scholarship of Moroccan government, for me that represented a noble and efficient
way of studying abroad. It was presicely the idea of going abroad: not necessarily to
France. To Europe or to North America...We were dreamers at that time, very much
attracted by Europe and North America. --- France for it's linguistic closeness and also
because the Moroccan education system is based on the French model, that's why
most people came to France.”
Presence of other Moroccans and existing social networks can also be a determining
factor as the support of peers is important, espcially at the beginning of studies:
” used my networks to come here, network of my school but those of other schools as
well. Of course, in the beginning I was afraid that the level [of studies] would be too
high here in France, but my friends here are supporting me. They said it's not too
difficult, there is just a little more work to do.”(Younes, student migrant, in France since
For Younes, as many others, perspectives of finding an employment after obtaining
diploma was another important factor and he has not been disappointed. ” On
professsional level, I have to say the truth, it's better than in Morocco. Let's say that the
school helped a lot, we received much support for the interviews and contacts with
enterprises. I already did internships in Morocco, it was not the same concept. Here, it
'Symbolic exile' of homosexuals
For some Moroccan homosexuals, leaving the country was the only mean to live their
life without feeling the pressure of Moroccan society for heterosexual marriage. One
respondent described this type of migration as a 'symbolic exile'.
” could not stay in Morocco anymore. I know some people started to have doubts
about my sexual orientation. I was afraid my family would find out. I was horrified by
this thought. It's good I could leave, this way I can keep my secret.”
Karim said he knew that if he stayed in Morocco, sooner or later he would have to get
married with a woman. Leaving the country was for him the only way to escape this
absurd situation, and he would have actually preferred to move to another country than
France, to UK for example, since he has family in France. Yet, France remained the
only possibility for practical reasons, but he chose to live in a city far away from his
French family and maintain distant relationship with them.
For another male homosexual respondent, sexual orientation was also a reason to
leave Morocco, but not as much to hide the fact from his family than to be able to live a
satisfying life: ” left for the love of Paris. I admit I have lots of luck with my family,
because although they are Arabs and Muslims, they accept the fact that I am
homosexual. But it would be impossible for me to live satisfying life there.”
In case of homosexual respondents, idea of satisfying life was related to freedom to
live with a partner of same sex and to live openly as a couple. Living in 'exile' can be
seen, in their case, as a social startegy of avoiding conflict with their family in Morocco
or to save appearances.
For those migrants who work in the artistic fields, they may find more freedom of
expression in France and possibilities to develop professionally as well as to connect
with international and cosmopolitan artist community.
One Moroccan born artist expresses his motivation to move to France: ” arrived in
France because I had this rosy idea in my head in terms of culture, imagining it's a
country of culture and I consider myself as a cultural exile” (Sofiane, 47, Northern
France) This idea of cultural exile is shared by another Moroccan born artist who works
in cinema who talks about 'cultural poverty' in Morocco.
Another artist, a 43 years old male Berber musician who arrived in France as a
marriage migrant also shares to some extent the feeling of being in a 'cultural exile'
although not using the exact term. ” Morocco, all the doors are closed for Berber
singers, they are excluded from the tv programmes and the hard administration makes
it impossible to organize concerts unless you are a big star, so it's hard to be a singer.
Culture does not occupy an important place in Moroccan society.”Instead, in Europe -
first in Spain, then in France- he felt that he found an audience who appreciated his
music and he can contribute to the promotion of Amazigh culture.
It is important to note that with 'culture' respondents referred mainly to 'high culture'
and cultural production. In many interviews, respondents were describing Moroccan
popular culture as very ” rich”.
Some Moroccan migrants settled down in France considered an eventual return to their
country of origin. Motivations for returned varied, but for example among the university
educated respondents, one explication was the difficulty to obtain posts within French
higher education system, particualrly for those who do not have French nationality. A
post in a Moroccan university would not necessarily demand a permanent move back
to Morocco, since it would be possible to work there during the semester while
returning frequently to France for weekends.
”Since it is very difficult to obtain a post here in France, a while ago I was thinking
about applying in Morocco. I have tried, I am just waiting for concrete answers. I know
many people who have done the same thing, who have had difficulties in finding a
permanent position here in France and who have returned despite their partner who
still lives in France. They shuttle back and forth. For example, they stay three or four
months over there, teaching all their courses in one semester. I know at least two or
three persons in XXX [a town in Northern France] who have done this. --- after, once
they have obtained sufficiently teaching experience in Morocco, they can come back to
France [to look for a teaching position].”(Samir, 46)
Within returning migrants, there were also some persons who were born in France and
moved back to Morocco with their family and returning to France later, to study for
example. One female respondent (see Yasmina, life course interviews) studied one
year in France, but was not satisfied with her studies and life in France at that moment.
She returned to Morocco but came back to France when she found another study
programme, mor suitable for her.
Modes of Transnational Networks
In case of Moroccans in France, intensive transnational networks were identified on all
fields analysed for this study: educational, political, social, cultural, religious and
economic. These are not necessarily separate and autonomous fields but sometimes
overlapping and co-existing. For example, many migrants told how they had initiated a
professional project that allows them to work in two (or more) countries. In succesful
cases, their professional visits to Morocco permetted them at the same time visit their
family members and friends. 'Political' and 'cultural' can not be strictly divided either,
since many migrants who criticized their host country politics and mentionned it as one
factore that pushed them to leave also referred to a political culture or mentality of the
Formal education from primary schools to university level in Morocco has a long
transnational history. During the French Protectorate in Morocco the French
educational model was installed in Morocco. After independence, Moroccan
universities have aimed to little by little wanted to take distance from the foreign
educational model. Still, as noted by Gérard (2008:13), for Moroccan students France
still has an important place in the collective imaginary and passing by France for
studies is perceived as integral part of studies and possibly as a path towards
professional future. The network of French educational system is, according to French
embassy in Morocco4, more present in Morocco than elsewhere in the world, in all
levels of schooling.
These institutions, together with other foreign educational institutions such as American
and Spanish schools enjoy a higher status with regard to state run schools. Waiting
lists for the enrollments are long and many parents perceive that only through these
schools their children have chances to access to higher education that guarantees a
white collar job and a reasonable income in the future. It is worth asking whether the
prestige of these schools is actually linked to the quality of teaching or subjects learn,
or is it more related to the possibility constructing social capital through networks
established throughout school years, considering that the high enrollment fees and
sometimes social connections needed in order to enter already selects the student
population and therefore contributes to the reproduction of elite classes.
Among the respondents ,a few had in fact already studied in French or American
educational institutions in Morocco. This was particularly common among those
respondents who arrived in France as students. For them, continuing studies in France
was seen as a natural continuum to their scholarly career and are not suprised to
frequently come across their former classmates from Morocco in a shop or café in
Paris. They also serve as valuable connections when looking for an internship, job or
housing in the French capital city where informal networks are often the most efficient
source of information for the offers available.
Considering that since the beginning of 1980s, the student visa has become nearly the
only possible way to enter France legally and the strong connections between French
and Moroccan higher education institutions, it is not surprising that a large majority of
respondents are either former or current students. Because of the importance of
student migration as a phenomenon in France-Morocco transnational context, the
educational part of our study focuses mainly on this area.
Gérard (2008) explains the important number of Moroccan students in French higher
education (2% of all students in 2003) system by several factors: omnipresence of
French language in many sectors of Moroccan society and the fact that French
curricula is followed in Moroccan schools, which makes France a country that feels
'naturally close' for Moroccans. A word often used by respondents is 'logic' – studies in
France are seen as a logic continuation for educational path started in Morocco. It is
also 'logic' as a destination since it is not georaphically too far from Morocco, there is
already existing strong tradition of studying certain -particularly technical fields -in
France and familiarity with French language compared to English, for example. One
respondent also brought up that France is a 'cultural model' for Morocco.
In addition to all above mentioned, continueing problem of diplômés-chomeurs,
unemployed university graduates,in Morocco makes most students feel that they need
to complete their studies in France or to study fields that are not thaught in Morocco in
order to obtain economically and socially appreciated jobs - in their case, studying in
France does not mean to 'escape for good'. (Gérard, 2008:14-28.) Obtaining a student
visa for France is not anyhow a self-evidence for Moroccans. All student visa
applications pass by L'espace Campus France, part of Cultural and Cooperation sector
of French Embassy in Morocco. To apply for visa, a candidate needs to create an
online application, provide his or her nationality card and confirmation of succeeded
inscription to the online application and 1000 dirhams (100€) in cash to cover the
application fee which is not returned. The role of Campus France is to evaluate the
application of a candidate, to verify the authenticity of his/her diplomas and to function
as a mediator between the candidate and the educational institution in France. 5
For many, it also means following a family schema if their parents have already studied
in France. Also, for some -yet relatively few- respondents belonging to Moroccan
bourgeoisie, Paris is considered as a close by city where to fly over for a weekend
shopping from Casablanca or Rabat. For them, France has often been a place for
holidays even before migrating. One respondent who himself went to public, Arabic
speaking school in Morocco says that after three years in France, he himself feels
more at home in Morocco, but ” you would ask that from a person who went to
Mission Francaise in Morocco, he would not feel disoriented here.”
Despite the similarities in Moroccan schooling system with the French one and facilities
with the language it is important to note three things: 1) not all Moroccans who arrive to
5 Information provided by the website www.maroc.campusfrance.org (consulted 01.07.2010)
study in France speak fluently French 2) there are still major differences in educational
system that may make studying difficult for them and 3) there are major differences
between different educational institutions (for example, between les facs and les
The similarities in educational systems and familiarity with French language may lure
to believe that transition from Moroccan educational system to the French one goes
smoothly. Yet, this is most of often not the case and most student migrants admit that
especially during the first years they have to work tremendously in order to pass their
exams. One respondent who worked in Morocco as a French teacher and was
therefore perfectly fluent in French language discovered the structure of the studies in
France. He told that he encountered a different way of writing when arriving in France:
” was French teacher in Morocco, but when I found myself in Sorbonne, The French
system is not the Moroccan system. The Moroccan system is --- let's say we write
about feminism or something. I write spontaneously and I faced this framework of
Sorbonne. You need to have a plan. To have a logic, a dialectic which I didn't know.---It
took me one year to understand this.” (Amine, 35)
Several interviewees mentioned transnational networks on formal educational field.
First of all, a few among the interviewees have originally come to France as students.
There are a number of existing established networks and institutional colaboration, for
example study programs and agreements between Moroccan and French educational
institutions that makes possible and facilitates mobility between these two countries.
Some Moroccan universities have, for example adopted a learning-from-distance
teaching programs through which Moroccan students follow French university courses
in their home country.
Informal Education and Learning
Apart from state coordinated programs, migrants' associations are active in promoting
informal training in Arabic language and culture, mainly for school children of immigrant
origin, but sometimes for wider audience as well. While conducting life course
interviews, a possibility came up to to take part in a meeting of NGO activists who were
discussing a project of creating a common forum to coordinate different associative
language courses. There seemed to be a need for this type of forum, since so far the
associations operate independently without any general coordination. Some Arabic
training programmes were financed by Moroccan state, as explained by one
respondent who himself was an Arabic teacher in France, working as a posted teacher
from Morocco. However, at the association meeting observed for this study, it soon
became clear that there disagreements between different members of what actually
should be included in Moroccan culture and whether they should include teaching on
religion or remain secular.
Educational field also includes informal learning of adults. What kind of learning
processes take place within migration process? What kind of cultural skills are
achieved? A few interviewees considered themselves as being 'bi-cultural' or capable
to understand and act in at least two different cultural contexts. Most of them
mentioned that being interculturally competent has been a great advantage and helped
them in both their human contacts and in the field of professional activities. In fact, one
respondent said that ” ,
emigration has been my training” referring to a whole new way
of seeing things since he left Morocco.
Some respondents had even developed their intercultural competence into a
professional activity. For example, one interviewee was running a business specialised
on organizing transnational weddings and in which, as she highlights, knowing both
cultural contexts ad speaking both French and Arabic is a plus and helps to attract
clients. Another informant told that since he had been used to help out and tutor
Moroccan students who have freshly arrived in France and were not performing well in
their studies due to language problems and different type of academic system, the
faculty had recognised the value of his work and given financial aid to him. With this
aid, he had been able to recrute more Moroccan students to work as tutors and they
had extended the service towards students of other nationalities as well. In fact, many
transnational small scale enterprises and associations initiated by migrants were based
on 'cultural know-how' (see the section on social remittances and transnational
Among the respondents there were some migrants with politically oriented background,
mainly within the Marxist movement in Morocco in 1960s and 1970s and for them,
political conditions have been very relevant in their willingness to migrate. Apart from
respondents who had officially obtained status as exiles, there were several other for
whom the political environment in Morocco had been a determinent factor in their
decision to migrate. For them, the quality of life is closely tied to the freedom of speech
and freedom to belong to the political movement of their choice.
Although many respondents emphasized on one way or another their double
belonging, some cases declared alienation with regard to their society of origin. One
interviewee was going through a juridical process against Moroccan state and he
expressed of feeling bitter about the way he has been treated by his country of origin.
One migrant also considered himself as 'symbolic refugee'. This means that he was not
exactly persecuted in Morocco, but felt that, as a homosexual, he would have better
quality of life abroad and would save his family from the shame and disappointment if
the truth eventually comes out.
With regard to state membership, there was a great variety among the respondents.
Some respondents said they felt as Moroccan, some who felt French and, majority of
respondents, who said they felt both. Yet this revealed to be sometimes conflictual and
contradictory: on everyday life level, most interviewees said they feel belonging to both
countries, but at the formal level s/he has to choose. This may happen for example
when one needs to represent his or her country in some occasion. For example Abdel
who was sent to Canada by a French Minister of Culture to represent France, but was
received by a Moroccan minister over there.
Among the respondents the most common political activity was voting, in national or
local elections (in France and/or in Morocco). The second most common way of
participation was to be active in labor union activities and many had been active in
unions already back in Morocco. The most common forms of political activity has been
taking part in strikes or demonstrations. One respondent remembers that his first
university year in Morocco he and his classmates were striking the whole year, as a
protest against the dissolution of their sector of the national student union. In France
too, taking part in demonstrations and protests is mentionned by several respondents.
The kind of events that motivate those respondents who are active politically are
demonstrations against racism, Israeli occupation in Palestine or attacks to Iraq or
Afghanistan, for example. Particularly among the younger generation, increasingly
popular way of expressing one's political opinion is to post videos and articles through
Facebook or other social media.
Voting is perceived important by Moroccan transnationals in general, but not everybody
takes up the possibility, for many reasons.
” don't vote. I'm not interested in politics. Even in Morocco I was not interested.”
(Amine, 35, Paris)
One respondent who arrived in France as a political exile said that he continues
supporting financially an extreme left political group in Morocco, at the same time being
politically active in France too.
Social field: Role of Transnational Networks
Transnational social networks, largely understood as any human relationships that are
maintained over time and geographical distance were present in all narratives.
The importance of networks with fellow nationals, particularly at the beginning of
migration experience can not be over emphasized. The weaker the 'official' support
structure is, the more important is the informal social network.
”You know, for us, solidarity is very important and everybody does for others whatever
they can, especially in migration”says Aziz, 42, who arrived himself in France in 1994
via Spain, as an undocumented migrant. His trajectory witnesses the importance of his
solidarity network: he obtained visa for Portugal, but having friends in Spain he decides
to go there on his way to his final destination, France. In Spain he found employment in
agricultural field as many undocumented migrants. He lived and worked in difficult
conditions with his friends, who had helped him to find the employment and housing,
as well as different survival strategies, such as how to avoid police controls. On his
arrival to France, it was natural to him to turn towards the community of Moroccans to
find housing and also employment as vendor in fruit and vegetable markets. Through
his contacts in Spain, he knew exactly who he should contact on his arrival in France.
More than one respondent emphasized the role of existing social networks in France
when arriving to the country for the first time. ” you don't have your friends to support
you here, it's a bit of a struggle” confirmed a 57 years old male respondent who
arrived in France in his early thirties with a student visa. With the struggle he means
dealing simultaneaously with studies, work to finance the studies and save money if
possible and deal with administrative issues (enrollment to university and achieving
one's residence card -both time and energy consuming processes). This struggle often
is the reason behind failure in studies: administrative issues must be done in order to
be legally in France and money is necessary to cover living costs, however minimal
they may be. Therefore, studies come at the third place. 42 years old Farid who also
arrived in France as a student confirms that the first months were ” ,
very precarious” but
that later on he managed to send money to his parents to Morocco even as a student -
yet he did not finish his studies because he oriented towards artistic career.
Times have changed though, and among new generation of students many had no
existing networks in France when they arrived. In some cases, particularly for those
who had obtained a scholarship for a grande école, the institutional structure replaced
the support provided by co-patriots by offering housing service, helping with
administrative issues. Ethnic networks served for several migrants as the most
important support structure providing help to find employment and housing. Sometimes
even constructed ethnic affilation -shared interest towards Morocco- may create a bond
of loyalty. For example, Samira, 52, who works in a hotel was recruited because ” there
was a French manager who had lived in Morocco for 20 years, so he adored
Moroccans. This created like a family atmosphere with him, and even when he moved
to work to another hotel, he took me to work there with him.”
Although the data is not sufficient to generalize about the role of community with regard
to choice of the partner, some respondents mentionned how they met their future
spouse through family connections:
” was thanks to my sister that I met my future Franco-Algerian wife.”( Najib, 39)
” the airplane on my way to France I got to know Amélie...who became my brother's
The importance of networks is equally emphasized by those migrants who have
wanted to create professional projects in Morocco. For a project to succeed, it is
important to have an 'address book' of networking partners.
Cultural field of transnational activity is possibly the one that is the most difficult to
define as taking a wide definition of 'culture', almost anything could fit into this category
but here the focus is on ethnic identification and sense of belonging. The cultural
aspect is also discussed here from two different perspectives: first of all, perceiving the
institutionalized forms of 'culture', or 'high culture' which means cinema, music, danses,
literature and so forth and in a wider perspective: culture as perceived differences
between Morcocco and France.
Few respondents admit having encountered problems in their adaptation to France, on
contrary, most of them emphasize the facility that they feel in adapting into another
country than theirs and feeling of being integrated. Problems encountered by many,
especially on arrival, were seldom perceived as problems of integration but rathter as
structural failures of French social system and administration.
Whereas there are associations aiming to promote Moroccan culture in France, the
idea of what actually is Moroccan culture is not necessarily shared by all members of
the community. Religion -Islam- for example is considered by some as an essential
part of Moroccan culture and those people argue for teaching about religion as a part
of Moroccan culture. Teaching about religion in a 'neutral' manner was seen as
necessary by some respondents in order to resist the call of mosques, also teaching
Islam, but in a more militant manner. The discussions observed in the meetings of an
association witnessed how extremely difficult concept is 'the culture of the country of
origin'. Although interviewees often referred to 'Moroccan culture' in interview
situations, while responding to questions posed by a non-Moroccan, in internal
discussion there were great difficulties in drawing limits of what belongs to 'culture' and
what parts of it should be formally transmited to younger generations.
The role of Morocco as a source of inspiration was very strong for those respondents
who worked in artistic fields, such as sculpture, theater, cinema and littearture. For
many, the transnational condition was a sine qua non of cultural production and contact
with Morocco, Moroccans of Maghreb in general, an important source of inspiration.
There were also example of transnational artistic projects, such as theater groups in
which all the actors are bi-lingual or films which are filmed partly in France and partly in
Economic Field: Remittances, Enterprises and Material Flows
According to French Embassy, between France and Morocco there are 81 bilateral
agreements (1956-2008)6. Since the colonial period, France has traditionally been the
most important commercial partner of Morocco, and several trade agreements have
been signed between these two countries.
Morocco has traditionally been a country with an economy depending strongly on it's
residence abroad. Therefore, one interesting finding in the data was that considering
migrants' income channels was that although France is economically more affluent
country than Morocco, in many fields migrants income depends on their economical
activities in Morocco. Farid, 42, found his first years in France financially difficult, when
he was starting up a small theater group. Nevertheless, his plays gained success in
Morocco, where he returned to work frequently. It was this income from Morocco that
financially allowed him to stay in France and practice his profession.
Financial remittances were frequent as expected Morocco being a country that heavily
depends on emigrants' monetary transfers (Charef, 1999: 36; Belguendouz, 1992: 92-
98). However, interview data revealed that in case of Moroccans in France, a few
among them received remittances in different forms from the country of origin. Among
these, for example students who lived on money that their parents sent to them or had
a scholarship obtained in Morocco, whereas some other migrants received income for
example from the housing property that they rented in Morocco and those whose stay
in France was financed by work they occasionally did in Morocco. There were also
some respondents who said that in a difficult life situation such as divorce or suddenly
lost employment their family sent them money from Morocco. Students, in average
received 2000-3000 euros per year from Morocco and those respondents who said
they send remittances said they usually send 150-300 euros at once, not necessarily
meaning they send frequently.
It can be said that the representation of a migrant who sends money and provides his
family in Morocco is still very strong, both among male and female respondents. Many
respondents, whether they themselves send money or not, recognize this cultural ideal.
A migrant is expected to 'succeed' and as an evidence of his or her success, s/he
needs to offer material support to those family members who stayed in Morocco. Sent
money was usually addressed to long term project such as buying property or to
contriubute to the schooling of younger siblings, but some migrants said they only send
money for special occasions, such as religious celebrations or weddings as there is
more costs durign those periods (food, clothing etc).
Cross-border Material Flows
Different types of goods were frequently carried accross the borders, to both directions.
From Morocco: pastries and other food items such as spices and herbs. Home
decoration items, craft work. These items, if not for respondents personal use, were
used for decorating their restaurants or other locations used for professional activites
or as presents for non-Moroccan friends who they knew would like 'typical Moroccan
things'. Although as one respondent from Paris noted, nowadays you can find
everything from the French capital city, as the Moroccan community is well established
and there are plenty of Arab grocery stores. Still there is a symbolic value attached to
food items brought from Morocco: ” Nowadays you find everything here, which was not
the case before --- but what I really like to bring are pastries, and then some herbs
such as thym, that is very good over there. I bring all kind of plants, spices -they have a
very particular taste over there.”(Samira, 52)
Some migrant associations have come to understand the value of traditional Moroccan
clothing and jewellery. For example, association of Momo, 41, aims to offer
professional activites for unemployed migrant women in Northern France through small
trade of items they bring from Morocco. Women travel to Morocco for one or two
months, making contacts with local women's cooperatives from whom they buy the
products, to sell them in France.
From France to Morocco, respondents said that they brought for example professional
material that they knew was not available, would be more expensive or poorer in
quality when purchased in Morocco. For example, Aziz is a plomber who has opened a
small plumbery business in Northern Morocco which employs his two brothers. He
says he buys professional equipment in France because it is cheaper but also because
his clients consider French materials being better quality. Therefore, he even takes free
days from work when there is a sales period in France in order to buy things he needs
for better prices and then transports everything in Morocco either by his own car or if
needed, sends them by bus. Ahmed, who rents holiday appartments to tourists in Atlas
mountains has brought bed sheets and sleeping bags to the appartments in France
and just like Aziz, sent them either by bus or by other migrants who go travel by car.
Several respondents mention they buy medication or health care related items in
France to take with them to Morocco, either for personal use or to friends or relatives.
Household items were also often brought in France. For example Loubna started her
enterprise almost accidentally after she had brought some table service sets from
France to her mother in Morocco, and other people saw them and liked them. She
started professionally import decoration items to Morocco and has recently extended
her business to Turkey, where she buys particularly decoration for wedding
For many migrants, important part of visits to Morocco was offering gifts bought in
France to friends and family members. These items were different from those bought in
Morocco as they had to reflect 'Europeanness' or 'Frenchness': they could be
fashionable clothes, perfumes or household items. French items, as difference to
Moroccan items, did not need to be handmade or artisanal, but rather reflect the latest
fashion or technological development.
”What do I bring to Morocco? Fabrics for my mother so that she can make beautiful
dresses and all that, but above all perfums and cosmetics for my sisters and modern
clothes for my nephews.”(Samira, 52, Paris)
Some new, hybrid forms of material production also results from transnational
colaboration: one interviewee, a young Moroccan woman had started a clothing
business that combines contemporary 'European' design with Moroccan textiles and
influence on design. Another female respondent, a craftswoman working essentially
with clay, said she draws inspiration for her work from traditional North African pottery,
but her work was as well inspired by her numerous travels and passion for ” Asian
things, particularly Japan”.
The material cross-border flows reflect the idea of Morocco associated with 'spare
time', 'family' and 'tradition' whereas France is represented through objects related to
'techonology', 'professionalism', 'style', 'fashion' and 'modernity'.
Several respondents had some kind of cross-border commercial activity. In most cases
they were small scale enterprises providing living for the migrant and his/her close
family members. Typically a transnational enterprise is targeting services to migrant
population at the first place and perhaps later, once established, addresses wider
group of clients. Examples of transnational enterprises:
1) Said, 57, drives to Morocco several times a year. He has noticed that many
Moroccans living in France have things they wish to send in Morocco. He
decides to invest in a bigger car and start transporting goods that other
Moroccans want to send: furniture, household items, clothes etc. - anything he
can into his car. This non-declared business does not provide a fulltime living,
but helps to complete his small salary. Since his clients pay his travel costs, this
business allows him to visit Morocco more often. As a negative side of the
business he mentions that at the border control in Morocco he often has to pay
bribary in order to pass. He says that the motivation for his business is not
money, but the possibility this entrepreneurship offers to stay connected with
2) Karima, 24, 2nd generation immigrant is recreating bond with the country of
origin of her parents through a small enterprise of textile which she has created
together with her business partner. She designs sportwear which is then sewed
in Morocco. Main reason for choosing Morocco as country of production for her
clothes is obviously lower production costs in France, but she also likes the idea
of ”doing something for her country by providing work to women.”She travels to
Morocco several times a year to buy the materials for her clothes and bring new
models for production. She admits that she also has started production in
France, in her neighbourhood, for practical reasons: it is not always possible for
her to travel to Morocco. Therefore, despite the slightly higher costs in France,
she occasionally must get her clothes sewed in France too. When it comes to
the design itself, she draws inspiration from ”oriental”and traditional Moroccan
clothing, combining it to a contemporary European style. To Karima, her work
has other than purely commercial dimension: she sees it as a promotion of
Moroccan culture. Having lived and studied trade in London, she estimated
having necessary skills to expand her business towards Middle East, to the
countries where fincancial crisis has less affected people's consuming power.
3) Loubna, 32, had to find a way to earn her living after divorcing from her
husband and long struggle of regularising her situation in France. She
has a day job as childcare assistant, but has developed a small scale
commercial activity in Morocco. The idea to her enterprises started on one day
when she was visiting Morocco and brought to her mother a table set from
France. One of her mother's friends who organizes weddings professionally
thought that this type of sets would please her clients. Loubna and her mother's
friend became business associates and she started to send her objects from
France by bus -mainly objects for home and wedding decorations. When she
found a place to open a store in Morocco close to her parents' place, she
delegated her business to a local person with who she also shared the benefits.
Now, since two years she has been owner of a magazine in another city and
her mother is the manager of the shop. She says that the display of objects in
her shop in Morocco has been much inspired by similar shops in her city in
France, which she finds ” .
stylish” Since some time, she does not anymore buy
herself her products from France, since she has found a whole sale in
Casablanca and prefers to buy directly there, which avoids her to pay herself
the import taxes. From this first enterprise, another project took off and she is
now also running an enterprise that organizes Moroccan weddings in France.
Islam and Transnational Space
If the interviewees were all of Muslim background, some of them did declare
themselves as atheists. Few respondents described themselves as 'practicing
Muslims'. Therefore no explicit, formal and organized religious networks could be
identified here, but it is also possible that those who maintained some were not willing
to talk about them. However, if we extend the concept of religion from the dogmatic
organisational level to concern everyday life practices with religious touch, several
interviewees declared to organise themselves to go to Morocco in order to continue
with certain religious traditions. Colaboration was done when organising for example
traditional religion related celebrations such as Ramadan meals or religious wedding
ceremony (as in France the civil marriage is the only legally valid one, religious
ceremony is afterwards organized by the community, either in France or in Morocco,
sometimes in both countries). Special food and clothing items for these feasts were
trasported from Morocco.
Samira, 52 years old marriage migrants described herself as pratiquante: an active
Muslim, but said she does not like to go to mosques in France. Even during Ramadan
she preferes to pray at home. When asked why she said: ” went twice or maybe three
times, just to donate money, you know, at the end of Ramadan, but I never go there [to
Mosque], first of all because I have no time and seconde, because I don't like the
atmosphere there. There are some people who come there just to sell clothes, clothes
and other stuff ---and then I don't like the people who come there and talk about other
people. [Gossips?]. Yes, gossips and sellling things, I don't like it.”
Although there has been recently debates in the French media about the radicalization
of the second generation Muslims, respondents who took part in this study show rather
different tendencies. For second generation of Moroccans who grew up in French
secular environment, religion is often perceived as private issue. For example Farid,
whose parents arrived in France in 1962 and who declares himself ” more French than
Moroccan”says that ” am a Muslim, but I think that my religion does not necessarily
have to show through my words and my gestures.”Although he says he could
otherwise imagine himself living in Morocco, he says that he does not like the
omnipresence of religion over there.
One respondent said that being a Muslim makes you different from the others and
because of this, as a Muslim you can never assimilate to French society. Yet, he did
not precise wheter it is because one is perceived as a Muslim by the others and
therefore always standing out or whether he thinks that Muslimness per se is an
obstacle for assimilation. However, none of the respondents mentionned that the
integration would have been difficult because of being a Muslim. Those respondents
who felt they have been descriminated due to their background spoke rather about
discrimination towards 'Maghrebis' or 'Arabs' in general.
What comes to social remittances, especially on the professional fields respondents
reflected upon the ways how their transnational life style had an impact on larger circle
of people around them, on colleagues for example. It is hard to say weather they really
transfer something, since this would require systematic observation in Morocco, but
certainly they did reflect on differences on working culture, for example and they
perceived that being familiar with 'French way' of working was generally advantageous
in Morocco (see chapter for transnational entrepreneurs). But there were also cases of
'non-transmission':, meaning that sometimes the respondents felt that for example
some professional skills achieved in France were not apreciated or adopted but rather
rejected by colleagues back in Morocco. This was the case of Khaled, a Moroccan
doctor who returned to work in Morocco for a while, after several years of professional
experience gained in Switzerland and France. He said he felt he could have had lot to
teach to his colleagues about how to treat a patient, but the colleagues were not
convinced and preferred their conventional way of working which he found frustrating.
Migrants themselves observe migration and its' social consequenses in the country of
origin. Particularly those who have arrived relatively recently and have a higher
educational level can be very critical towards the representation of 'traditional
migrants', expressed through material flows to Morocco. Amine, 35 years old Parisian
has observed that:
”There are those who come back [to Morocco] in July and who we call 'Tati7 Migrants'.
It means those who arrive by cars and who have Tati shopping bags. I've met those
people and I wouldn't believe my eyes. I don't want to generalize but those are the
people I met when I was in the village [of urban origin himself, Amine worked for some
period of time as French teacher in rural area in Southern Morocco] and therefore I met
people who live abroad but come over for summer season. Those people have a very
schitzophrenic relationship with France. Because when they are in France they clean
in subway and all that, but when they are in Morocco they tell something different.---
Their discourse is not in phase with their lived experiences. Those are people who do
not go to theatre, they don't go to cinema or to see exhibitions. Because why to spend
money on unnecessary things? All money has to be sent to Morocco. That is a sign of
social upward mobility.”
'The myth of migration' is a concept that comes up when the culture of migration is
discussed. It refers to general manner migrants in general, not only North Africans, aim
to keep ut the image of success through generous display and distribution of valueable
objects as presents while visiting country of origin, although earning hardly minimum
salaries in their host country. Amine's comment shows how new migrants, often
educated and middle class background, are more critical towards this phenomenon
and value other things such as cultural capital. Yet, in genreal, helping, either
financially or by other means, one's country of origin was highly valued by respondents
and it seems to remain a strong cultural ideal.
Social remittances on professional field
Migrants working experience in France is often a valuable capital when they extend
their professional activities to Morocco. At the same time, transnational experience
helps them to observe differences in working culture in France and in Morocco.
The theories of social remittances state that migrants as 'agents of development' may
transfer skills learned in the country of residence to the country of origin. In general,
this is perceived as having a positive transformative power in the country of origin,
helping to adapt more democratic citizenship values (associated with the 'West').
However, as some examples from the interview data suggest, transmission process is
not always smooth and migrant's status in the sending country context may be
contested. A following quote from a Moroccan physician who returned to Morocco
tempted to introduce to his colleagues new ways to perceive doctor-patient
Here [in Europe] you learn to work a lot, to be present and to do things with your
hands, to be available for the patient, talk to him, respect his rights. Colleagues who
stayed in the country [in Morocco] have never seen how the things are done elsewhere
7 Tati is a department generally associated with low prices and frequented by many immigrants.
and unfortunately they don't do this.---so for this with colleagues it has always been,
not conflictual but a little bit different...there has been misunderstandings, we don't
understand each other. (Khaled, 38 years, doctor)
Also respondents in working on other fields have confirmed that working in France has
taughtthem a certain discipline that they feel lacking in professional life in Morocco.
Working in French environment has enlargen their perspectives and they have
sometimes critical views vis-à-vis Moroccan way of doing things, but at the same time,
different virtues which combined with European professionalism and orderliness can
make transnational professional projects fruitful.
”There [in Morocco] they have cultural skills, but here [in France] there is discipline and
this is what I like and that's why I would not choose either one or another. I would not
like to work only in a Moroccan way, which is very emotional so to say – 'doesn't
matter', 'we'll arrange', 'no problem' – There is a very human side on that, but it lacks a
little bit of discipline.”(Mourad, 46, film maker). In Mourad's case, he is capable to
formally transmit his professional skills in Morocco, since he has contributed to creation
of a cinema school in Morocco and is also teaching there.
Also Aziz, who owns plumbery in Northern Morocco confirms the idea of 'discipline'
when it comes to French way of working. Rigorous and serious working style he has
learned in France has become an ace to help him to gain customers in Morocco. ” For
example, they [the customers] are not used to receive an estimation of price. I always
give them a written one with total costs and this makes them confident. This I have
learned in France you see.”
Karim, 34, who runs a Moroccan restaurant in Northern France with his parents in-law
has recently opened a touristic restaurant in Marrakech. He says that foreign
(European, North American) tourists appreciate his restaurant because they respect
the French hygienic standards, which is not the case with all the other restaurants in
Morocco. ” Tourists love to eat in our restaurant because it's very clean. We train well
our staff.”This, he sees, is particularly the influence of his in-laws who have been
working long time in restaurant business in France and are therefore accustomed to
European standards and know the taste of European clients.
Loubna, 32, who has decoration shops in Morocco thinks that it is easier to do
business in Morocco when you live in France. In her opinion, wholesalers and other
business partners trust more on immigrants than locals and they have a reputation of
being people who work seriously. ” also bring more money to country than the
nationals” she remarks. Yet, other migrants have also encountered negative
experiences. Malik, who rents appartments in Morocco says that although in general
his brother is taking care of his affairs, sometimes he has had to travel there himself
because his tenants have not paid their rents on time. He prefers to take care of his
locations by himself or with family members, because he does not trust local agencies.
”Sometimes the nationals take us for naives who do not know about business and try
to take advantage of us. Therefore I prefer to take care of my affairs by myself. I like
Morocco, it's my country but the mentality of the population is filthy”
The idea of doing business to Morocco does not appeal to all 2nd generation migrants,
mainly because they do not having the cultural baggage to succeed in there. Farid, 36,
says: ” never thought about creating an activity in Morocco. The mentality is not the
same there, even though Morocco also changes and develops. --- Over there you need
to be suspicious. Here you have rules and protection, but over there, if you want to
start some business you need to have connections and you have to know the tricks. It's
Respondents also commented French working life, but some of them, particualrly those
who have been living in a third country can also develop a critical approach towards
certain professional practices they find in France. For Yasmina, 29, who worked in
Netherlands as an IT professional, return to France opened her eyes about many
things on French working culture for example. She particularly criticized the French
way of spending long hours in the office, without necessarily being efficient. ”
Netherlands, you do your work and finish it by 5pm. Here in France, everybody takes
numerous coffee breaks during the day and long lunch break, and then they are still at
the office at 9pm. I don't understand this.”
Migrants can also draw benefits from their social and cultural capital in their
professional field in France. As seen above, many transnational migrants' enterprises
are based on knowledge migrants have acquired thanks to their migration background.
For example for a couple whose business was to organize wedding parties for mixed
couples, recognizing cultural differences was an essential skill in their line of activity.
Djamila, 39, explains: ” have the advantage of knowing the two cultures, as much
French as Arabic culture and it is not everybody who can do this. In a same way, for an
Arabic marriage, you need to know the mentality and know how to enter, because you
don't enter easily [into their homes].” She has an example on mind of situation that
demands cultural sensitivity: ” you have a mixed wedding with a French woman and a
Moroccan Muslim man, you have to explain some things which may appear simple. For
example, that you can't throw the bride's suspender because the [groom's] father
would not understand that custom. We try to explain but it is not always simple! Or that
you can't place husbands' parents to the same table with people who will drink wine.
These are small things but they could cause enormously problems”
Loubna, who also organizes wedding celebrations in Morocco and in France thinks her
transnational position helps her to be aware of current celebration trends in both
countries and to adapt her business to the demands of her clientele: ” Morocco, at
the moment they like it Western way: the table is set for each person individually and
you eat with cutlery, whereas in France it's the opposite. The immigrants here look for
Moroccan traditions for their weddings and I can offer that to them.”
In general, respondents associated France with professionalism, discipline, high
standards, trust and hard work. They criticize France for high taxes, harsh
competition.The positive qualities associated to Morocco is easy-goingness and
warmth in human relationships. Yet, corruption, lack of trust and lack of material
conditions are mentionned as problems for practicing professional activites in Morocco.
Migrants Associations and Institutional Connections
Data proved that meso-level connections between France and Morocco existed in
different forms. The types of connections identified were for example labor union
connection, connections through a political movement, and links between educational
institutiona (exhange agreement, joint degree programmes etc) and also initiatives
such as twin city projects: a city of town has a 'twin city' in Morocco and there is an
attempt to celebrate the connection through different activites. Still, perhaps the most
important meso-Ievel link between institutions was different associations and NGOs.
The associations can be roughly divided into two types: migrant's associations
addressing immigrants or other population groups in France and those associations
that have a project in Morocco. Here I am first taking a look at the associations that
operate in France and then at those associations of which the principle field of activity
is located in Morocco.
It is often easier for migrants' associations to start with activities addressing primarily
immigrant population or to start projects in Morocco. Yet, in long term associations
impact may reach further and benefit the host society. Migrants associations do
valuable work in fields of culture, education and social work, often substituting formal
institutional structures. For example, foreign (non-European) students may receive
tutoring help or immigrant women who risk marginalization may make use of their skills
and learn language within associative work.
Migrants' associations also play an important role in transmitting cultural knowledge
about Morocco, Islam and political situation in Arab countries and counterbalance the
populist media discourse which associates Islam with war, terrorism and discrimination
of women. This is how Jawal, a university professor in Northern France, sees his role
in a migrants' association:
” tried to through our actions to make a dialogue with the other... because if you're
Muslim, Islam is sold in the media as something dangerous: a Muslim is someone who
is quite an extremist, a blood thirsty Barbar --- and then in the media there was Iraq
and all those events which are quite difficult for the Maghreb population. There was a
need for creating another way of seeing, another discourse.”
Jawal thinks that there is a need in France to educate young people about other
cultures and that migrants as himself, who can describe themselves as 'bi-cultural' can
have an educative role to play:
” have the advantage of having as a Moroccan --- to know the French culture and I
know many things about French culture, so I am not afraid of the French, even the
worst French person! I don't have any problems because I can understand her. But she
does not know me! A French person is more interested in United States, will learn
English, which is of course normal. But I think if you manage to reach one or two
persons it's already good. We do many things for young people [in the association]”
Seen from this perspective, migrants' associations can contribute in reducing
xenophopia by reducing people's fears towards foreigners, particualrly Muslims, and
increase intercultural understanding. But they can also offer more concrete services.
This is the case of association of Jawal, who used to be a leftist activist back in
Morocco is very active in associative work in his home town in Northern France. If the
above mentionned association has an educative task towards French nationals, his
another association addresses foreign students who arrive in France by offering them
tutoring and support at the university. He has initiated an association for students who
came recently from Morocco and who has a weak level of French and need assistance.
Jawal thinks that the increased importance of Arabic language in higher education in
Morocco has weakened the level of French of Moroccan students and led to the
situation that they face more difficulties in orienting in their studies in France.
At the beginning, the association addressed only Moroccan students, but they realised
after a while that it is better to open up the activity to a wider community and they
started to offer help to other foreign students as well. This project was valuable
initiative for the university, which had a weak support system for freshly arrived foreign
students. Therefore the project ended up receiving financing from the university.
Although the overall impression of the data is that Moroccans invest significantly in the
associative field, some migrants have critical attitude towards possibilites of
associations to contribute into the development, particularly when the NGOs operate in
the fields where professional approach is needed. Sustainability of NGO projects is
Moulod, engineer working with renewable energy sources is one of those who thinks
that associations can not replace professional projects in development in certain fields:
”The associations can not do things well and definitively not in my field. You should
create sustainable projects. You need to have competences and researchers.”
As an example of institutional connection, many cities in France have 'twin cities' in
different parts of world, also in Morocco. Twin city agreement may offer a formal
framework and thus facilitate migrants' colaboration with Morocco.
One respondent was also active on co-laborating with labour unions in Morocco and
had established ties with French unions. This syndicalisme was for him a way to
promote social and political rights in Morocco.
Migrants associations: a way of 'giving back something'
Among the respondents a few were active in NGO and voluntary work with
development projects in Morocco or elsewhere, often in Africa or for example, in
Palestine. The types of associations and projects varied as well as the location where
the action was taken. Some associations operated in France, addressing either migrant
or larger community, some operated in Morocco, some in other countries and some
projects were virtual operating only in Internet.
Several respondents expressed their concern on social and/or development issues in
Morocco: for them, giving their time time to associative Apart from working through
associations engaged in local development, this concern was expressed through
artistic forms, for example. An interviewee who worked on theater had started to work
on a short film about the phenomenon of harragas (migrants from North Africa who
cross the Mediterranean to Europe on small boats) as he felt it is importance to raise
awareness of the issue of undocumented migration.
Jawal, university professor who initiated two migrants' association which are mainly
working in France has also created a third association that focuses on development
and solidarity work, through providing professional training for people working in
nutrition industry. Members of this association are Moroccan and French, and they
received public funding for their projects in France and private funding from Morocco.
Yet, they do not limit their activities into these two countries: recently they raised a
development project place in Mali. Jawal emphasizes that he does not want to pick out
Morocco as a special case but to create activities with a larger entity of countries. The
association has initiated a program for short term professional training programs in
several African countries.
Another example of a developement project initiated by migrants' association is a
project that aims to construct wells in dry areas of Morocco. For the project to succeed,
it was important to have local connections in Morocco. To identify the possible partners,
each member of the association made inquieries in their home towns or regions in
Morocco to identify the needs. The project was then chosen based on these
preliminary 'field studies'.
Apart from environmental and social projects, some migrants were initiating or
supporting projects that promoted the culture and the rights of ethnic minorities in
Morocco, mainly different Berber groups. Some projects that aim to help fellow
Moroccans are operating only in virtual space. This is the case of for example Karim's
project: he offers online help and support to Moroccan homosexuals through a
Narratives of Ethnic and National Belonging
In the interviews, different feelings were expressed towards national belonging. As
mentioned above, some respondents expressed feelings of transnational and cultural
belonging that extended beyond transnational space formed by France and Morocco.
'Maghreb' and 'Arab' identities were also advanced by the respondents fairly frequently.
Many respondents felt close to other North African migrants, especially with Algerians.
The data shows that among the Moroccans living in France there is a strong tendency
to look for support in social networks, both locally and transnationally. The loyalties are
built on different levels 1) national 2) local 3) ethnic/religious or 4) international levels
and they may occasionally overlap.They were expressed in following ways:
1) Nationality, Moroccan, and sometimes the fact of having origins in the same place in
Morocco is the primary source of affiliation. In many interviews it came out that for
example finding a work or housing, networks with fellow nationals are efficient sources.
Many declared having Moroccan friends who are not necessarily of the same place of
origin in Morocco but with who they feel belonging through national tie.
2) Local affiliation demonstrates the importance of territorial attachment within national
or transnational context. For example in case of Meryem (see life course interview)
feeling of solidarity is based on common national origin operates even across the
religious boundaries. When she was looking for housing she, herself Moroccan of
Muslim background, got to know a Moroccan Jewish man working in the housing
service and it turns out they are from the same city in Morocco. This affiliation helped
her to gain sympathy for her case and advances her housing request.
3) With ethnic/religious affiliation I refer here to a situation where respondents are
benefiting from belonging to a religious community of Muslims or to a community of
Maghrebis or Arabs in France. For example Hicham, a Moroccan student in Paris,
explains how he felt discriminated while looking for housing since White French-born
Frenchmen ('francais de souche') do not want to rent their appartments to foreigners.
He explains that he finally found an Algerian who rented him an appartment and trusted
him without demanding excessive guarantees.
4) The affiliations of international level (apart from affiliations to other Maghreb or Arab
countries) are less present in the respondents' narratives but there are some cases
that illustrates this type of affiliation. For example for Meryem, her first contact in
France was a Swiss lady who was originally a friend of her husband at the time but
then became her friend until present day.
The examples in the data show that belonging and identities can be constructed and
operationalized in various ways, depending of the situtation. In addition to national
identities, 'Moroccan' or 'French' data showed an important variety of possible
identifications, such as 'Arab', 'Maghrebi'/'North African', 'Mediterranean', 'African' or
'Cosmpolitan'/'World Citizen'. ” Moroccans and Algerians have everything in common.”
'Mediterranean' identity was advanced by a respondent who tried to live in Denmark for
some years, but came back to France because he found French 'Mediterranean'
culture easier to understand. Instead, identification as 'European' was entirely absent
from the narratives. this was surprising considering that the project of departure, for
many, meant 'leaving to Europe'.
Respondents were asked where they most feel like home. Although there was no only
one answer to this question, it can be said that the expressions of double belonging
were strongly present in the narratives of Moroccans in France.
Although traditionally migration literature desribed immigrants as 'in between' the
country of origin and the host country, our data shows a strong tendency for double
belonging: feeling at home in two countries. In fact, large majority of respondents felt
that they feel as much home in both countries. As one respondent precises: ” prefer to
say that I am IN two countries, rather than in between.”
”Morocco is my country, just as France. For me they are the two countries in which I
feel happiest in the world”(Jawal)
Double belonging is often combined with universalist tendency (see chapter for
motivations for migration). For artists, for example, the capacity to connect within
people outside one's own national borders seems to be essential. ” he [an artist] is
local or regional, he's lost, he can even become a nationalist. I am rather for
universalism and free spirit, I can not see myself saying that I am 100% French or
100% Moroccan. When I am here I feel French --- Honestly, I feel myself at ease in
France as much as I feel myself at ease in France.”(Sofiane, 47)
An important factor in belonging was family. For those respondents whose parents
were in Morocco and children were born in France, the choice of country would have
choosing between Morocco and France is like choosing between
been difficult to take, ”
your mother and your father” as one respondent said.
Belonging to France
All respondents expressed their belonging to France on some level, even those who
said that they feel more Moroccan and had mostly contacts with the Moroccan
community. On its' most simplest level, this feeling of belonging was articulated as
easiness of living or staying in France, as absence of major problems. Some
respondents felt they feel more at home in France than in Morocco. 20 years old Said
who had arrived in France to study expressed his concern about his eventual return to
Morocco: ” don't know if I will be able to go back to Morocco. It's going to be a bit
difficult. I feel well intergrated here.”
This was also the case of Karim, 35, who felt that as a homosexual, his quality of life
was better in France than in Morocco. ” here I feel home. In Morocco, it's good but I
feel myself strange. It's like it was not me. There are too Karims: one in Morocco and
one in France.There [in Morocco] I have to be careful and pay attention to what I am
say all the time. I need to think about answers to their [family's] questions in advance.
Here I am free. It is France that gave me possibility to be myself.”
Obtaining permanent residence card or French nationality is an important step in one's
migratory process. However, the motivation for taking that step was most of the time
described in migrants' narratives as something that was done for practical reasons and
not as a symbolical act of showing one's belonging and integration to France. The
nationality takes more symbolical meaning in respondents' social environment. Amina,
42, says that her mother, although having lived herself in France since 1973, did not
understand why she wanted to take French nationality in 1998: ” professional
reasons, to get an employment in public sector, being French is a must, although my
mother was protesting in the beginning. For her it was like denying my culture and my
origins.”In fact, one important motivation for asking French nationality was the
possibility to work on sectors that are limited to nationals, such as many public sector
functions and also security business was mentionned.
Although many respondents said they spoke at least some French on arrival, the
importance of language can not be denied. One 48 years old female respondent who
arrived in France in 1985 with her parents, already residents in France, said that ” a
young Arabic speaking migrant I found difficulties learning French and to settle down in
a society and culture so different from Morocco” Currently she feels perfetly integrated
in France where her children are born.
Sometimes it has been through the experiences of residing in third country that some
respondents have become aware that they do actually feel at home in France and that
France -through it's common history with Morocco and familiarity of its language and
manners – is culturally closer than some other countries. For example, Noureddine, 40,
studied in France in order to obtain a diploma on special education. After 10 years of
working in the field of special education, he re-oriented himself in studies and became
a baker. After that, he obtained a financial rewarding position in a restaurant close to
Barcelona. The reason why he moved back to France from Spain after seven years of
working there (and an appartment bought there) was increasing stigmatisation of
Another (male) respondent had moved to Denmark for professional reasons, but
moved back to France which he considered culturally more adapt, ”
Mediterranean”to his taste.
” I decided to settle down in here [in France] it's because that is what I wanted! It's not
because of... It's not an obligation, because I had to, it's because I wanted to! And that
is important, I made a choice! And if I didn't feel good here, I could have left. Denmark,
for example, I didn't like it...we are conditionned by our culture I think... Danish culture
is different from French culture in all levels, from Mediterranean culture. I am
Mediterranean...but the Danish are very different”
Considering that the respondent's home town is in Northern France, far from the
Mediterranean sea, 'Mediterranean' can be interpreted here as a cultural construction
that connects Morocco with France as opposed to Denmark. In fact, France was
perceived 'culturally familiar' because of the French influence in Morocco. For many,
the only moment when they feel themselves different from French is the moment when
they need to go through administrative procedures such as getting a new residence
card or visa (see chapter on racism and discrimination experiences).
Those respondents who have children born in France often tell that through their
children, they have started to feel stronger sense of belonging with France. Malik, who
moved to France as a marriage migrant and whose two children are born in France,
explained that he started to understand how French society works during the years he
was taking care of children at home when his wife was working.
Belonging to Morocco
Some respondents declared that although living in France at the moment, they feel
they belong more to Morocco. This was for example the case for those students who
arrived in France motivated by certain studies and for who obtaining a certain diploma
was the only or at least the most important motivation for migration. This is the case of
Younes, 27, who has been studying in France for five years, but feels that only in
Morocco he can feel ” ease”- a feeling that he can not explain better, but he says it is
related to being with your family members, since he is single and has no family in
France, and having your habitudes.
Yet suprisingly, Morocco was sometimes mentionned as 'the first country' by migrants
who had lived long time in France and had no immediate project of return or who do
not think at all about return to Morocco.
” honestly love Morocco, it's my country, just as France is my second country. I really
like France despite of everything. It's not difficult [to choose] because my parents are
over there, and all that, but when it comes to me, I like France. When I tell them [to
family in Morocco] that, they are like 'oh really?', but it's because it's been over thirty
years, thirty two years I've lived here, so I have my habitudes here, I was very young
when I arrived here. It's related to my personality as well, because over there in
Morocco you can't...parents are there and all that. But the administration and all that...”
For Samira, the fact that her parents are in Morocco is the main reason why she says
she feels first of all an affiliation with Morocco. It is interesting that she begins her
answer by declaring that Morocco is her country, but then what follows is mere criticism
and she takes time to explain why she actually feels more at home in France. Her
narrative shows how belonging and expressing one's loyalty can be a compex matter
as she feels like she needs to justify why, after 32 years of being all settled down in
France, where her children and grand-children live, she does 'like' France as well. This
may be related to a political question of colonial history, and beloning to a generation to
whom 'belonging to France' was perceived as a betrayal.
Amine, who left Morocco because of his homosexuality says he felt more free in Paris
and says Paris is the place where he feels at home, does still feel ”profoundly
Moroccan” Aziz, who divorced from his French wife and thinks he was 'lost' during the
years he frequented only French people, drank alcohol and preferred his nuclear family
to larger family unit says that he feels after all more Moroccan than French. It was the
failure of his marriage and bad experiences of what he considers as French way of life
that taught him things about himself and gave him a strong sense of identity. For him,
being Moroccan is ” the blood”and there is even no need to discuss about it.
For the 2nd generation migrants, the belonging with Morocco is not a self-evidence, but
the feeling of belonging must be constructed through everyday actions. For example,
Karima, 24, who is born in France, said that she used to watch tv programmes in
Arabic together with her parents and grand-parents, not only to receive news from their
country of origin but also to create a bond between generations. For Najib, also a 2nd
generation immigrant in his early thirties, the interest towards Morocco was not as
much motivated by his parents (although he visited Morocco often as a child) but by his
friend who has Algerian origins. Perhaps his willingness to identitfy himself with his
country of origin is also related to his feelings of having been discriminated in France,
particularly in finding employment.
”Until 1990s, I was just a French person and I only spoke French. Thanks to my
Algerian friend, I started to develop a little bit different relationship with Morocco. I
started to speak Arabic when I was 15. After that, I have been travelling frequently to
Morocco, both for holidays and for university exchange. Now it's been three months
that I didn't go back to Morocco and I miss it already. When I am in Morocco, I speak
Moroccan dialectal Arabic, not French like many 'immigrant kids on holiday' do, staying
in their group and only speaking French with each others.”
In Najib's case, his parents had not considered important to teach Arabic to their
children, but some respondents with French-born children emphasized the importance
of transmitting their cultural heritage to their children. This transmission process was
done in many ways: bringing children regularly to visit Morocco, reading books in
Arabic to them, through Arabic films and music or teaching them Arabic language. This
is not always an easy task, but the double belonging can be seen by parents as a
cultural capital for the future.
” am encouraging my son to visit Morocco at least once a year, to spend at least one
month there. To listen to Arabic music, to see what Arabic literature is about, to start
learning Arab alphabet. This gives you an advantage, something that your buddy called
Charles does not have because he does not know Morocco.”(Mourad, 46, film maker)
Apart from feeling of belonging from national perspective some respondents stood out
for their strong affiliation with the city they live in France, and this was particularly
evident for many respondents who lived in Paris. The cosmopolitan way of life the
capital city appealed some migrants as much that they could not have imagined living
elsewhere in France.
Experiences of Discrimination and Equality of Rights with Host country nationals
Although most of the interviewees of life-course interviews had succeeded rather well
in their personal and professional lives, it should be mentioned that a few of them had
had in the past experiences of situations in which they had felt discriminated. With
regards to equal treatment with the nationals of host country, particularly the students
complained about discrimination when it came to housing possibilities or finding a job
or an internship. In that case, transnational networks often came in handy. Interesting
enough, the transnational networks did not necessarily mean connection with fellow
nationals, Moroccans, but other nationalities who they feel culturally close, as for
example in Hicham's example, with an Algerian.
The most striking area of dicrimination in most respondents' view is the administration
in France. In fact, most of the respondents had encountered enormous difficulties in
obtaining their residence cards or to renew their visas; a process that can take months,
sometimes over one year. Respondents complained about long queues, missed
appointements and hostile reception at the police headquarters. For many, it is the
administartive processes that make them realize how they are different from the
nationals. This was the case of Mounir, 35, who arrived in France at the age of 16 join
his family who had already settled down in France. The first time he went to renew his
residence permit he realized that ” there were different queues for foreigners. It was a
shock for me, I had always considered myself as French. Before I felt that I am from
here.”On the other hand, some repondents have not have major difficulties as their
professional situation has facilitated the process (see below, life course interview of
Also student migrants often found the beginning of their life in France very difficult.
They mentionned financial problems, racism and referred to French administration as
'slow and heavy', particularly with regard to distribution of residence permits. This has
serious consequences for their studies, since some students told that they needed to
be absent from lectures too often, as the administration took so much time.
In some cases, arrival in France has provoced a 'cultural shock' which can be
interpreted as disappointement related to the observed differencies between 'real' and
'imagined' France. Sofiane, 47 years old artist explains: ” was disappointed by two
things: by the weather -it was raining all the time- and on the other hand by the
attitudes of French people”Found French people sad, not very smiling and not
expessing any kind of joie de vivre. ” Morocco everybody is happy and they laugh
often, even the poor and miserable” He also says having been suprised by the poverty
he found in France, which he did not think would exist. He was particularly shocked by
Their housing was
the precarious living conditions of Moroccans living in France: ”
unhealthy and even the WC was outside, I didn't think such poverty would exist in
France. I had another image of France.”
In fact, today many migrants are for the first time exposed directly to poverty when they
arrive to the host country. This was the case of Lamia, 30, who after French schooling
in Rabat arrived to study in Northen France, in a region where poverty and
unemployment is particulalrly visible and labor movement very strong. For a young
female student with upper middle class background, encountering this 'other side of
France' was rather shocking, since it has very little to do with France represented by
French schools in Morocco.
Racism encountered in France is brought up by several respondents, although few are
capable or willing to give very concrete examples. Racism is mostly expressed through
attitudes and subtile gestures, which are not always easy to articulate. Political events
in the world affect the migrant population and the way how they are perceived by the
host nationals. For Momo, 41, the first war in Persian Gulf in 1991 was a turning point
when he started to realize the problems of racism. ” noticed a few of my friends and
my colleagues to change completely their vision about me and I took it very badly. I
decided to leave.”
Farid, 36 years old 2nd generation migrant who feels entirely French thinks that racism
has rather been problem for older generation of migrants.
”When I started to work in trade of technical products and I frequented national and
international fairs, I was suprised to see that there were nearly no young people of
color, North Africans or others. I was almost the only one and it is true that then you
start asking yourself...you ask whether people are hired by their competences or if
there is something [discrimination]. In my opinion it's a generational thing, in my job
there are only young people and everything goes well. But the people who around 60
years old, those are the ones who have problems with others.”
Ahmed, who moved to France as marriage migrant has been working as a sport
racism does not exist”
teacher in different sport clubs. For him, sport is a field in which ”
and says he feels lucky to work on that domain.
However, not all the respondents feel as lucky as Ahmed. For Najib, who is a second
generation immigrant, his Moroccan origins has been the main reason why he has
encountered difficulties in finding employment. ” What comes to my life in France, I
have encountered many problems to find employment, because of my origins. When I
was 4th year Geography student, I had a few difficulties in finding an internship place at
the end of my studies. I could also refer to other type of social problems, like people's
suspicious looks on the street.”
If in general most migrants admit that the older generation of migrants encountered
more problems in France in all levels and that the new generation is more open
minded and used to cultural diversity, many of them express their concern towards
current political climate in France and the rise of extreme right in political field. ”
situation is more and more difficult, the immigrants are the first victims of a system that
is based on exclusion and exploitation.”says Tariq. As a former leftist activist back in
Morocco, the elections of 2002 and success of extreme right motivated him to engage
himself in politics, although otherwise he had not been very active in recent years.
During the first wave of Moroccan migration to France in 1960s and 1970s most
migrants were men moving alone. 'Feminisation' of migration started slowly in 1980s,
when male migrants started to bring their spouses through family unification
If not completely unexisting in 1970s, as the following example will show, Moroccan
women seldom moved alone or with other motivation than marriage (studies being an
only exception and yet limited to the elites). Those who did, as Meryem who was
interviewed for this study, had to face the stereotypes about women of Maghreb origin
as passive followers of their husbands. In today's world, more and more women move
independently, for professional or other reasons. Since the discourse on North African
migration is still largely dominated by the idea of women't restricted mobility, the
examples chosen from the life course interviews demonstrate how women can also act
as independent decision makers in migration processes -sometimes from early age
and already in third generation, as witnessed by Samira's life course.
Women also enter to the previously 'masculine' professional fields, as shown in
Yasmina's case. Finally, Meryem's migratory path demonstrate that even if a female
migrant arrives as a spouse -or as a girlfriend, like in her case -she is not necessarily
'just a spouse' but an active agent with aspirations and ambitions. Islam is said to be a
factor that limits female mobility. With regard to religion, these women also represent
different approaches: Meryem declared herself as an atheist already at young age,
Yasmina is a practicing Muslim and Samira somewhat indifferent towards religious
practices, although considering herself as Muslim.
Life course interview: Yasmina, IT worker
Yasmina is 29 years old single woman working as an engineer in an international
company in Paris and lives alone in Paris. She arrived in France in 1999 after finishing
her baccalaureat in Morocco. First destination in France was a city in Southern France,
in the region where her uncle lives with his family. The motivation for moving to France
was study medical sciences to which the access was easier in France than in Morocco.
She had already started her studies of other scientific field in a state university in
Morocco, but decided to apply to a French univeristy after her first year. She describes
her first years in Southern France as a negative experience. She had no family in
France, apart from one uncle. Her budget was very limited at that time and studies
were very hard. ” arrived there all alone, other kids were there with their parents who
helped them to get started. I had to prepare everything by myself, when there was
some Moroccan feast I was alone and I was not surrounded by friends there. There
was only one other Moroccan, another girl, but everybody was concentrated in their
studies. Every third weekend I went to see my uncle, but it was two hours of train away.
Sometimes I went back to Morocco, by bus because plane was expensive and it took
long time, more than 22 hours.”She describes her time in Southern France as a 'black
period' of her life, since she had practically no social life, she studied from morning until
In 2001 she decided to return to Morocco as she realized she did not want to study
medical sciences. Her family told her that she could stay in France if she wanted to and
just to change her field of studies, but she did not want to. Once back in Morocco, she
started to apply to other schools. Her alternatives were another medical school, this
time in Spain or a private university in Morocco. Spain was not a serious option for her,
since she would have had to spend one year just studying the language and medical
studies too long. For the studies in private university, she had to take an English
language test, TOEFL, as part of her studies would be in English. She passed it
succesfully, as she had been studying English in school and in a private language
institute in her home town in Morocco. With her excellent results in language and other
tests, she received a scholarship for this private university, which was very important
since the studies in this university were very expensive.
In four years, she completed her studies for Bachelor. ” took courses in summer time
too, partly because I had already spent too much time and also because longer you
stay the more you pay.”Once she obtained her bachelor degree in Morocco in General
Engineering and 2005 and did an internship in Casablanca before arriving in France in
2006. She settled down in Paris while studying for a professional Master's degree in a
smaller city for about 150 kms from Paris. ” me the choice to come to France was
determined by the fact that I already the country a little bit so I know how it works here,
and also the Master's programmes they proposed were more interesting than those
proposed in USA or Canada. Many of my classmates went abroad--- it became
'fashionable' to do a Master's programme as an added value to a diploma obtained in
Morocco.”She is suprised how often she meets in Paris someone who has been
studying with her in Morocco. ” a bit suprising in a capital city of 14 million people.
But it means that we all live more or less in same neighbourhood and visit same
circles.We are either in Opéra, Champs-Elysees or in La Défense. Sometimes I
recognize faces in the bus although I don't know their names.”
Already at the beginning of her studies she had to find an internship placement in a
multinational enterprise. "It was not easy, contacting enterprises and all that, but at the
end I found one" she says. Her first internship was in an internationally known IT
company and during nine months she worked in this company in the Parisian region,
while travelling to another city for weekends for her Master's classes. "We were three
or four students together, we left very early in the morning to arrive early enough for
classes, to not to be late and we stayed in hostels or other cheap places for the night,
as it was not easy to pay hotels as a students". The internship and studies lasted one
Well before finishing her studies she started to apply for employment, she she knew
that after student visa will expire she should leave French territory and there would not
be enough time for finding a job. She sent her cv to several enterprises who found her
profile interesting, but everytime she mentionned that she has a Moroccan nationality,
the enterprises stood back. "They said 'yes, we know, your profile is interesting, but X
and Y already had problems because of this --- at that time, getting your residence
permit took between six and nine months in Paris. I know that sometimes it was also
that I was not the kind of person they were searching, but very often it was for this.
Because they would have wanted me to start working soon and not to wait for such a
long time." Finally, a good friend of her from Morocco took her cv to the enterprise
where she herself worked and they wanted to hire Yasmina. "Actually, it was a quite
small new enterprise who wanted to invest on us, they recruited four new persons, all
foreigners. They knew the paper work to be done. After one month of finishing my
studies I already had an agreement for work contract and we started the process for
my papers. They used an enterprise to take care of the administrative part and withing
six weeks I had my residence permit. I was very lucky. Because that is not the case for
everybody: even my friend had to wait for six months, between December and Juin".
Yasmina is still working in the same enterprise for three years now, as an IT consultant.
Since at Yasmina's work many colleagues have a foreign nationality or background and
since she also tries to travel as much as possible during her free time she has been
observing cultural both on her work environment and during her travels. Her
experience differs from many other respondents as she studied in Morocco in a
university which was based on American model and many of her professors were
North Americans. In her opinion, studies in the management school she did in France
were rather 'cool' although the selection was hard. ” my university in Morocco,
everything was based on American system. Luckily, my first working experience in
France was in an American company, so I didn't feel the difference.”
Instead, she describes her first working experience in a 'Franco-French' enterprise as a
”complete clash” ”. Because in the office they consider that you have to arrive at 9am,
you should not leave before 6pm, but you can take take two hours lunch break. --- For
me, work is not only that you show yourself in your working place, it is to work!”After
one year in France, she is sent to a project in Netherlands. There she finds a working
culture that corresponds her better. ”You can come earlier in the morning if you want or
you don't take long lunch break if you don't want to and then you can leave earlier. The
most important thing is that you do your work.”Yasmina thinks that French system is
too hierarchic and does not not giving enough responsabilities to the employees.
”One thing I don't like here in France and you don't have this in Netherlands is that
everybody intervene in the life of others. We can be very close to each others, but
there is a respect towards other people and things, and during coffee pauses we go to
get our coffees and then go back to work. --- It's very different.--- also in Anglo-
American system everything is well organized. Everybody knows their rights and their
limits. In France everything is unclear.”
For Yasmina, working together with people of different nationalities has been one of the
highlights in her work in Netherlands: ” remember when I worked with people of three
different nationalities. When it was an Irish feast, we celebrated that, when it was an
Israeli national holiday we celebrated that too and when it was Ramadan we brought
some cakes, we celebrated also everybody's birthdays. Ok, it was for three minutes
and then we went back to our work, but there was lots of tolerance”. In Netherlands
she also spen frequently her spare time with her colleagues, all of them foreigners in a
similar position than herself: ” was all people who had chosen to leave their country,
so tolerant people. ---we had dinners together and it was really super and extraordinary
When she returned to Paris, she found another atmosphere in the enterprise where
she started to work: ” France, it's all about comfort...and critic and theory. Above all I
find the French not very open and honestly, this is a bit scary because in today's world,
English is the language of enterprises. In France this is not the case, they look at you
like you were an alien when you speak English in telephone or with other people. Until
today I have difficulties with this and in every project I try to find people of different
origins and people who have travelled.”Yasmina herself loves to travel and likes to visit
her friends in different countries. Sometimes people are suprised to hear that she, as a
Muslim woman from Morocco, has travelled and lived in several countries. ” think they
are suprised mostly because they compare with themselves and despite all the
advantages they have had they haven't done it.---Even for French-born Moroccans it
seems to be suprising, they say 'oh but how did your parents let you to go to
Netherlands?' For them, Moroccans are not so open, they don't know it, they don't
know that nowadays middle class people in Morocco travel” .
For her, the most important cultural distinction is not made between French and
foreigners, but rather with people who have a mobile life style and those who do not.
She has noticed that most often she makes friends with people who have at least one
parent of foreign origin: ” have noticed that those who have travelled most are often
those who were born in France but of foreign parents. They know at least one or two
other countries and therefore they are more open.”
As for discrimination or problems encountered in France she mentions problems in
finding an appartment, although she recognizes that in Paris it is a problem for
everybody, not only for foreigners. ” us as foreigners the problem is that you don't
have your parents here as guarantees that you will pay your rent. Anybody who has a
relative in France with a good salary asks him or her to be the guarantee, I think we've
all done that. And of course they ask that we have residence permit that would be valid
for at least one year.”She says having been lucky for finding a nice appartment with
some friends living close by: ” and my friends were lucky to live where we live
because I don't see many Arabs in this neighbourhood.”
She thinks that as a woman she has less problems with regards to racism than men.” It
is because physically we don't stand out as much as men.---Even for finding
employment, being a woman is an advantage because being physically attractive and
nicely dressed is an advantage in working life, even though in IT is not so important. ---
But when you have your work interview with the manager, as a woman you can be
more elegant and also more original than a man who just needs to wear a suit. It is not
the most important thing but it counts. Also, our names, Arab female names are better,
whereas a man can be called Mohammed, Hassan...and that is very..hmm”At the
moment she is working in a project where '90%' of her colleagues are French with
foreign origins. ” think this is specific for IT. I don't think it's the case in finance, or in
banking...or fashion business. I don't think on those fields if would be so easy for non-
French to find work, because you have lots of meetings with clients and it's a lot about
the image, lots of elitism.”
When it comes to identity, she says she feels Moroccan and will always stay Moroccan,
but could maybe be a French 'in her heart'. ” would never be French as someone who
was born in here, because when I came I was already Moroccan with my personality
and my background. But I appreciate France and French values. Maybe to make my
life easier and to take advantage of my rights, to be able to vote for example, since I
contribute to the economy of this country and pay my taxes.” At the moment, Yasmina
is single, but she wishes her future husband to be Muslim and perhaps Moroccan
origin, although she admits that ” life, anything can happen and my cousins have
spouses of different nationalities: French, Russian, Italian...” She is also thinking
seriously about returning to Morocco, if better work opportunity presents, to be closer
to her family and also because of the weather, wamer and sunnier than in France.
Life course interview: Meryem, Marriage and 'Life Style' Migrant
When Meryem, 46, arrived in France in 1978 she had already finished her university
degree (Bachelor of Political Sciences) and started a professional career in Morocco in
journalism. At the time of her youth, Morocco was gowerned by King Hassan II's
government which she describes ” very strict”and she soon came to realise that
making a career in her field would be very difficult in political conditions of that time. At
the time she became interested in all the events taking place in the Arab world and
took off a post in Foreign Ministery's service. Since she had started school in 1960s
and went to a school where teaching was in Arabic as opposed to her seven syblings
who all went through their primary schooling in French. For that reason, she says to be
happy of her good Arabic language skills which helped her in her early career. In the
school she had studied English as a foreign language instead of French. Proposing
English as a second language was a strategic choice of her school that wanted to take
distance from French colonial system and show that they have a right to propose
something else than French.
After one year working at the Foreign Service she was willing to leave to United States
and she is applied for a post through Ministery. She gives two reasons for her
willingness to move abroad: ” The unspoken idea of my parents was that they had
achieved their target which was the university education for their daughter. They were
not going to tell their daughter that she has to marry because in our [social] milieu you
don't do that, but for them it was time for me to disarm myself and think about funding a
family. But that was not for me, it really did not appeal to me to enter into this system”
Meryem describes herself as someone ” ,
very adventurous” but her parents did not
agree for her travelling alone anywhere. ” father did not want us to travel for the
simple reason that he was afraid that something would happen to us. And also, since I
come from weatlhy family, he did not understand why would I need to go anywhere.
For him, travelling somewhere meant that you are needy.”
Life in Morocco became ” boring”for Meryem, although she had an interesting work, a
car in her use, no financial problems and enough freedom to go out as she wished.
She wants to go somewhere and obtains a post in Tunisia, but Tunisia does not attract
her. ”why to go to Tunisia? I wanted to go to The United States, I had a professor in the
university who influenced me enormously and who encouraged me to go there.”
Finally, there were no occasion to go to USA but instead, she started plan holidays in
France. But her father refused again, since they had no family in France. ” the time it
was still different: to travel, you needed an autorisation of your brother or your father.
And my father did not want to do it! Our father is adorable, when he sees that there is a
resistance, he tries to trick us and we [Meryem and her siblings] trick him too! And
when finally we manage to do what we wanted to do, he will finally accept it and he has
managed keep his status as a respectable father and we can do what we wanted to do
-it still works like that with him!”To leave to France without father's permission, Meryem
had to find a trick. She had an idea to go to see an uncle and ask him politely to come
with her to get her passport, telling him that her father was not available. At the same
time, she bought her ticket without telling anyone. Her father tried to stop her on last
minute by trying to make her miss her plane, but Meryem had decided to leave, so she
took a taxi to the airport and arrived in France at the end of 1978, where her Swiss
friend Sophie was waiting for her.
On arrival to Paris, she found everyhing ” .
magic” From Paris she travelled to
Switzerland, where she spent her ” ever Christian Christmas, as you could say”
with her friend's family. After holidays, she should have returned to Morocco, but after
thinking about it, she did not feel like going back to take the job offer for Tunisia. Her
boyfriend, a Moroccan exile in Paris, put pressure on her to stay. She spent her time in
Paris visiting exiled friends and thinking about a way to stay in France. It was too late
to enroll to university. Finally, after three months in Paris, she has taken her decision to
stay. When her father asked her how she is going to make her living, she told him that
she is going to translate Arabic to French. ” father said 'but you don't speak French'
and I said 'well, I am going to learn it!” She therefore signed up for a language course
in Alliance française. ” thought I will never learn French if I only stay with Moroccans,
so I decided to find a French family to live with, to become an au pair girl.”According to
Meryem, becoming an au pair girl was her firs 'cultural shock': ” how to accept that me,
a girl from a wealthy family has become an au pair girl?” Yet, she feels herself at home
with the family, particularly because the father of the family had Jewish Moroccan
origins. ”They chose me, because I was Moroccan and I had a fantastic relationship
with them.”After one year of being an au pair girl, Meryem decides to start studying a
She starts her studies in political sciences and at the same time, her relationship with
her boyfriend is becoming more official and they move together in a small studio in
Marais, Jewish neighbourhood. Meryem, who says that the conflict between Jews and
Arabs in France has been much of a creation of a media. In Marais, she feels like
home. ” Morocco, my family had lots of contacts with Jews and I had an aunt who
lived in Jewish neighbourhood. So there [in Marais] I had an 'aunt' upstairs and one
downstairs, and they liked having me around. And when I went to Morocco, I always
brought them some presents.”Her close relationship with Jews sometimes suprised
other people and when she later on took her fist child to kindergarden and was asked
who could be named as a person in charge for the child if something would happen to
the parents, it was all natural for her to name her neighbour, a Jewish Algerian lady. ”In
kindergarden they looked at me and asked 'how can you trust your child to a Jewish
person?' I said 'listen Madam, I have no mother or father here, but I have this aunt so I
would trust my son to her'.”
In 1982, Meryem's mother comes to France for medical treatments and discovers that
her daughter is living with her boyfriend. ” had nothing to hide, so I told her and she
came to live with us. She never said anything or asked anything, but when she left she
said 'I wish you good luck'.”Meryem finally obtains her Master's in political sciences,
but life in France becomes very difficult: she can not find work, she feels socially
downgraded and starts to realise that racism exists in France. She is still dreaming
about leaving to the United States, but her boyfriend does not want to leave. As an
exile, travelling is difficult for him. Finally they get married and both families come to
France to celebrate their wedding, since him as an exile can not return to Morocco.
Their first son was then born in 1984.
With children, the question of nationality becomes more important. Since born in
France, Meryem's son becomes French. With her husband there are serious
discussions about the topic of nationality, since him and his family have been
nationalists in Morocco, with uncle and aunts who have been in prison for their
nationalist political activities against the French protectorate, he considers French
nationality as a disloyalty towards their country of origin. ” him, being an exile was a
temporary condition and he still had the idea of returning to Morocco one day” Meryem
wanted her son to have French nationality, because ” my son is supposed to live in
France, I hope him to have all the chances on his side” meaning the advantages
brought by the fact of being a national. Their son thus became French, but Meryem
and her husband kept their Moroccan nationalities until 1988. For Meryem's husband,
French nationality became the only option when found work in French national public
company, which required him to ask for nationality in order to be able to work for them.
They became officially French nationals in September 1989, but their daughter was
born at the end of August 1989. ” This still poses a problem for her: although she has
her passport, her national identity card and everything, the other day, six months ago,
she was told again: prove us that you are French.” For this reason, Meryem feels that
”Being a foreigner in France is difficult, and it becomes worse when you become a
national and you have to all the time, all the time prove it.”She thinks that Moroccans
of her generation who live elsewhere than in France, in London, for example, are better
off because the administration is made easier than in France.
As the family is growing, Meryem, her husband and their children move to a bigger
appartment after years of struggling to find it. She had been in the list of priority for
housing for years, but nothing had happened. Finally, six months pregnant she went in
person to the housing office, desperate, explaining her housing situation which was
becoming impossible. Her application is received by a man who takes a look at it and
remarks that they were born in the same city in Morocco, ” was a Moroccan Jew
and he said 'My daughter' -and when someone calls you my daughter it means
something- he said 'My daughter, I promise you, you will find a housing. I broke into
tears, I was exhausted...” Thanks to this lucky encounter, she found a better housing,
but still not yet convenient for family's needs. She keeps on applying for a more
suitable appartment for ten years without results. ” Unfortunately, the gentleman who
helped me in the housing office could not help me anymore, he died...I kept on
applying without obtaining anything, although I had a work on public sector and money
to pay for it” Meryem had found work in journalism, in television and finally ends up
buying an appartment with some financial help from her parents.
Meryem wanted to settle down in France and says she can not live in provisional. ”
need to feel at home there where I am. To succeed in settling down in a new country,
you need four things: you need a project, you need a housing, you need work and you
need to know the language. Once you have these four conditions, other problem is
how you are received by the other.”In the early years, when Meryem's French was not
very good yet, she says she was perceived by administration as a ”wife who came to
France to join her immigrant husband.--- this means that I am automatically someone
who is subordinated, who does not understand anything and to who you can tell
basically anything. I've spent years fighting against that image. Now, after 30 years, I
don't fight anymore, I just don't care”She was also disappointed by the way she was
received in different associations, for example parents' associations in the school of her
children. She wanted to take an active role and have responsabilities, but in 1980s, it
was still rare to see people of Maghreb origin to participate in associations. Being a
woman was, in her opinion, another obstacle: ” you don't correspond the image
people want to impose on you, you become a disturbing factor” .
Yet, the field in which she feels having been the most discriminated is employment.
Once she had not learned the language, she could not believe that her diploma and all
working experience she had from Morocco would not count more than her origins. ” In
job interviews, I was shocked by the questions I was asked, I will never forget them.
One person was looking at my cv and he asked me: 'is your husband French?' I said
no. 'Is your father French?' ' No' 'Your mother?' 'No' 'How is it then possible that you
have done all these sudies?' For him, it was not imaginable that a Moroccan woman
could have studied. ---those are stereotypes of colonial times” When she finally
obtains a work in television, she accumulates short term contracts and the company
refuses to make a long term contract with her. She decided to leave, but found herself
in trouble because she has three children and does not want to ask money from social
assistance. At that moment, she left to Canada with her family, to visit her brother, just
to take a break from the current situation.
At the same time period, her husband was starting a small enterprise in France and
Meryem starts to realize that their projects and aspirations are not at all the same. She
wanted to become a school teacher, took up the studies and obtained her diploma as a
teacher in 2001. She and her ended up divorcing. She found it difficult to work and take
care of three children, but at the same time, she enjoyed the work as a teacher and
even strarted PhD studies in 2006. Her topic is related to cultural diversity in schools
and particularly questions of discrimination and racism. ” horrible what is happening
in France”she says, and refers to the fact that many children of immigrant background
are oriented towards low skilled jobs during their schooling, have difficulties in finding
internships and suffer from racist attitudes of some teachers.
Her current situation permits her to visit Morocco couple of times a year, just to visit her
parents. She travels alone, but when the children were small she wanted to take them
with her so that they would also get to know Morocco. Recently, she has started also to
contact again her old friends in Morocco with who she had lost ocntact during her busy
years in France. She feels at home in France and has clear opinions about the debate
on national identity and integration. ” When I tell people that I don't fast on Ramadan
they say 'oh, you're fully integrated', but I didn't fast in Morocco either. Why would
France change something in me?”She says that her, at the end, it does not make a big
difference whether she lives in Morocco or in France. In Morocco, she would have
been more rich in material terms, but she thinks that everything she lived through in
France made her life rich and interesting compared to for example her sisters who
stayed in Morocco and who have sometimes had difficulties in understanding her life
choices. As a future project, she is dreaming about opening a kindergarden in
Lifecourse Interview: Samira, Return Migrant
Samira was born in France as the first and only child of an Algerian mother and
Moroccan father. She is a 'mobile female' already in third generation, since her
maternal grandparents lived and worked in Morocco in an American military base and
after her divorce, her grand-mother moved to UK to study and sent her daughters-
Samira's mother and aunts -to Algeria, at the end of 1950s to be raised by their
grandparents until she could afford to buy herself an appartment there.
Samira's mother met her Moroccan father when they both studied in France. Samira's
mother studied medical sciences and her father humanities. From father's side, there
had been previous contacts to France since Samira's paternal grand-father had worked
in France as a construction worker and some of her paternal uncles were born in
France. "He constructed France, we could say", says Samira, laughing a little bit.
However, father's family, after some years in France returned to live in Casablanca, but
Samira's father came back later to study in France. In Paris she met Samira's mother
and they got married. Samira was born in 1980.
According to Samira, her parents felt pressure from the part of their family to return
back to Morocco and they also felt that it is their duty to make their country to profit
from their know-how acquired in Europe. But, at the same time period, political conflicts
between Morocco and Algeria started to arise, and as an Algerian, Samira's mother
had difficulties in finding work in Morocco. "The Algerians had a bad reputation at that
time, and even if there was a need for doctors at the time, my mother could not find
work. I believe it was because of her nationality." Therefore, Samira's mother travelled
to France to find a periodical work in the hospitals. Later on, her parents divorced and
her mother returned to France with nothing apart from her little daughter, Samira, who
at the time was three and half years old.
In France, they were hosted first by Samira's aunt, who was married to a Frenchman.
"The family in Algeria had turned their back to her because she maried a...you have to
see things in the context of that time period, the war of Algeria and uncles who have
been fighting in that war [against the French], so It was quite difficult for her. So she
had decided to leave with her love and go to live elsewhere.". Apart from her sister,
Samira's mother had also other connections in France since she had studied there. But
in early 1980s, the suburb riots started to break out in France, and the area where
Samira lived with her mother "was becoming a ghetto". As Samira's mother feared
stigmatization of her daughter, she took decision of returning to Algeria with her. "And
also, to be surrounded by the family and people on who she could trust as a single
mother. And, as many people of her generation, she wanted to give something back to
her country, to do something for her country, particularly to the South where she is
from" For these reasons, Samira and her mother returned, although she said at the
time, single mothers had to face society's judgement in Algeria.
After some months spent with family in Algiers, capital of Algeria, Samira's mother
moved to the South where she had found work, taking her daughter with her. Samira
started her schooling in Southern Algeria and kept travelling back and forth to Algiers
with her mother and spending summer holidays in Morocco with his father and father's
new family and her paternal aunts and uncles. In 1993, she stayed blocked in Morocco
because of terrorism wave shich led to the closure of borders between Morocco and
Algeria. Samira was denied of visa to return, and she says that she was then obliged to
stay with her father and her mother-in-law. She went to school in Morocco during that
year she stayed stuck there: "I didn't like it all". "The big difference between Morocco
and Algeria at that time was that Morocco is a kingdom and Algeria is a democratic
republic. --- In Morocco, that was the years of Hassan II, it was like mini-dictature, with
a very present silence whereas in Algeria it was bit of revolutionary and there was at
least some freedom of speech. I had always been protected from politics, since my
mother never talked to me about her political ideas."
"But as I spoke with Algerian accent, everybody considered me as an Algerian. In
Algeria, as I went to school there and all that, I was never treated as a Moroccan.
Some close friends knew that I had a Moroccan nationality -considering that there is no
double nationality between Maghreb countries. And of course, before that was never a
problem because I always got a return visa to go back to Algerian territory, as my
mother was my legal tutor. But at that time the borders were still open." It was at the
time of conflict when Samira became conscious of the concrete effects of her double
belonging and questions of nationality. "As long as I remember, I was asked, jokingly,
whether I feel myself more Algerian or Moroccan. I think it's a question that is always
posed for children born of mixed marriages.---for other people, half-half does not exist,
they want to know which side you would take, which card you are playing. I never
thought that way, I always thought that I was both: Moroccan and Algerian. And even
more, because within these countries I belonged to ethnic groups" Samira also points
out, that her mother and her aunts were educated in a French manner, in the same
schools with French people living in Algeria, since Algeria was, in fact, still part of
France at that time.
Finally, Samira was able to return to Algeria, but the radical islamist terrorism increased
at the time she started to study languages in the university. "I grew up with that fear in
my stomache to not to know if your friends will come to school anymore next day.
Bomb alerts and all that. Also, as a girl it was difficult, with veil and that ..." Before she
turned 18, she decided to return to Morocco to live there with her father, and her
decision was also encouraged by the fact that her mother's career was taking off and
she had to travel a lot because of her fieldwork and numerous conferences in Europe.
"I felt like an obstacle for my mother and I thought it would not be a problem for me to
move, since we are all Arabic speaking and it's the same culture, Mediterranean and all
In Morocco, Samira soon encounterd problems on many levels: although speaking
perfectly Moroccan dialect, she had different way of expressing herself "I've learned my
way of speaking in Algeria, and I soon came to realize that it was not appropriate in
Morocco, as a woman, as a Muslim and as a subject of monarchy". Her straigth-
forward way of talking got her into problems in social situations. At the same time, her
relationship with her father became conflicted, Samira having not to be used to a
Samira found a way to escape from the situation through a work she found in an airline
company and she became a flight attendant. This gave her an opprotunity to move to
Casablanca, earn money and also travel to different destinations in the world. Most of
all, she became independent. "For me, it was also a way of escaping from this system
where girls are expected to sit and wait for the prince charming. ---the submission: let's
put it how it is. An education to be submissive."
During her years as flight attendant Samira got to know Moroccans in different parts of
word and she had friends in different cities she visited. She also travelled frequently to
France where her met her future husband, a Frenchman, through a common Moroccan
friend in a party in 2002. In present, she is married and has a one year old child and
lives in Paris. She quit her work as a flight attendant, as the she felt like due to the
changes in company's management she had more and more work and the salary was
not anymore as good as it used to be.
At the moment, apart from taking care of her child, she has been studying pottery and
is starting an enterprise to sell her craftworks. She felt like her integration to France
was relatively easy, since her mother also moved back to France with her new partner
and she had no linguistic or other type of problems and she had already friends in
Paris. Currently, she visits her grand-parents and friends in Morocco when she can and
stays in contact regularly through telephone and Skype. She also travelled there for
one month to study traditional pottery technique.
The data suggested that today there is no one typical migration path from Morocco to
France, but a multitude of motivations and itineraries, particularly with regard to
migration paths and motivation, migrant categories, financial and other type of material
flows, questions of belonging and identification and female migration.
Migration from Morocco to France has gone through major transformations from the
lmale dominated labour migration in 1960s and 1970s to family reunification processes
in 1980s to todays new migration forms such as student and undocumented migration .
The fieldwork conducted among Moroccan migrants in France showed that today
people arrive from Morocco to France for various reasons: studies, work (the range of
professions is larger than ever including people in highly skilled fields such as doctors
and IT workers), more tolerant environment (particularly when it comes to
homosexuality), seek of adventure, exile or because they have a French partner.
Migrants' narratives reflect the diversity of migratory paths and shed light on
individual's role in migratory process. Against common assumptions, women are often
active agents in migrations and take migration decisions independently.
The data highlights the importance of transnational social networks in case of
Moroccans in France. Those networks offer peer group support, particularly in when
host country insitutions fail to provide certain services such as housing. Support
network of peers is crucial when arriving to France. Those migrants who arrived within
institutional framework, for example as scholarship students or professional trainees,
gave slightly less importance to the supporting networks, but in general, transnational
networks operated as a primary source of information to find housing and employment,
The data also showed a very strong attachment to kin in the country of origin,
expressed through regular visits, frequent communication and exchange of presents
and financial remittances and investments in the country of origin. Yet, the frequency or
visit or intensivity of ties had not negative effect on belonging to France. On contrary,
those respondents who felt well integrated in France (stable professional situation,
housing, French born children and probably French spouse) insisted on importance of
visits, in order to not to loose contact with origins and to transmit bi-cultural heritage to
children, which most of them considered as an advantage in today's increasingly
multicultural world an an occasion to obtain cultural and linguistic skills.
The importance of financial aid and remittances towards Morocco have been analysed
in many studies and they are important way for migrants' to contribute into the
development of their country of origin. Yet, important finding in this study is that
material and financial flows are not only unilateral towards Morocco, but migrants' are
also receivers of remittances and income from Morocco. For example for students, it
was clear that large part of their income came from Morocco in a form of financial aid
that their family sent to them. Financial help was also received in case of sudden loss
of employment, divorce or illness. Some migrants finance their living in France by
regularly working some periods in Morocco. These examples highlight the less
discussed phenomenon in migration studies, which is the financial flows from poorer,
emigration countries to wealthier immigration countries. Material flows go to both
directions, but the type of objects purchased in France are different from those brought
from Morocco. To Morocco, respondents brought most often objects that reflect
technology such as household or professional equipment and objects related to style
and fashion, such as perfumes, clothes and decoration items, but also medication.
Most common items respondents brought from Morocco were things related to food
such as pastries, herbs, spices and olive oil and traditional crafts: furniture, pottery,
carpets etc., either to private use, as presents for friends or professional use for
Agreements between educational institutions in France and in Morocco seem to have
at the moment strong impact on channeling migration flows, since Moroccans more
and more often arrive in France as students. Since French language is already familiar
or even a second language for many Moroccan students already in Morocco, it may
create an illusion that studying in France is easy. Yet many Moroccan students
interviewed for the study shared the idea that there are fundamental differences in
ways of studying in France and in Morocco and few of them received any tutoring apart
from their peers. In this, student and ex-students' associations can provide valuable
help for universities and are, in fact, already doing so in many univeristies without any
or with very little financial support. Majority of students wished to return to Morocco,
probably after having first gained some work experience in France or, more and more
often, in some third country. However, diploma obtained in France seems to still carry a
great symbolical value.
Moroccans interviewed for this study were in general active in associations and NGOs.
There were three types of associations: those opertaing in France, those who have
activities in Morocco and those who operate in both or in a third country (Mali,
Palestine...). Apart from aiming to contribute to the development of Morocco, many
migrants' associations targetted either migrant or larger population group in France.
The activities were either social (providing working possibilities for unemployed or
tutoring for students) or cultural, such as organizing cultural events, making Moroccan
culture more familiar in France or fighting racism and xenophoby. Among the
respondents there seemed to be rather strong preference towards labour union and
other type of associative work. This can be at least partly explained by the fact many
leftist Moroccans left their country in political turmoil of 1970s.
On economic field, many respondnents had professional connections to Morocco:
small scale entrepreneurs and investers, but also artists, doctors, engineers, teachers
and researchers. Possibility to travel between and operate in both countries can be an
important strategy professionally. Work experience gained in France is considered
valuable in Moroccan labour market and higher professional categories such as IT
workers, doctors and researchers were actively comparing career possibilities in
France and in Morocco. Moroccans also contribute to the cultural production in France
in different fields of art: film, theater, sculpture, music literature, often drawing
inspiration from Morocco or topics related to immigration and migrants working on
these fields often felt their work is more appreciated in Morocco after having
succeeded in France or elsewhere in Europe.
The arena of everyday life where discrimination was most evident was the housing
sector. Several respondents complained about it and many had gone through years of
struggles in order to find a place to settle down. Students are not always aware of
housing services addressed to them, since the similar structures do not exist in
Morocco. Other sector where migrants felt discriminated was employment and
particularly students and highly educated complained about difficulties of finding work
corresponding their diploma. Most respondents also felt that administration of visas
and residence permits is discriminative and reinforces the feeling of being an outsider
in the French society. Female respondents had faced stereotypical thinking about
Muslim women and some of them said they have felt that as Moroccan women they
were not expected to be educated, well travelled, politically active or professional.
It became evident in this study that it is impossible to talk about Moroccans -let alone
immigrants - as a homogenous group. In fact, Already within Moroccans, different
categories have different needs. The general problem seems to be that large majority
of today's migrants do not recognize themselves in dominant representation of an
immigrant. In fact, very few respondents identified themselves with 'traditional migrant'
-an archetype of a migrant who perceives his stay in France only in terms of work and
spends all his savings to invest in Morocco. The stereotype of 'traditional migrant' was
at the same time criticized for his lack of language and cultural skills and for alienation
and capacity to adapt in both societies but at the same time recognized as a brave
figure who constructed France and contributes to the development of Morocco.
For many, before arrival they talk about 'Europe' but in identity discourses, European
identity is not mentionned by any of respondents. Feelings of double belonging, to
France and to Morocco, were very present in respondents narrative and part of theirs
ocial reality. Some respondents admitted that taking French nationality had been hard
for their relatives in Morocco, who see it as a symbolic betrayal. But for those
respondents who had or were applying for French nationality, reasons for applying
were they gave were very pragmatic. For them, nationality simultaneaously facilitates
mobility and stability and gives access to certain professions.
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