Dwarfed by Spain and France after decades of rule and subjugation, Morocco hasn’t had the easiest of times in its lifetime. For a country to have earned independence only in 1956 and having been plunged ever since in a bitter war and tussle with Western Saharan region, citing claims to the territory, peace is often a lonely phrase in school dictionaries. It doesn’t seem to exist for real in the Northwestern African country.
The lives of the refugees, who’ve since Spain exited from Western Sahara been one marked by helplessness. Theirs is a journey that seems, for the longest time, in a rather vain wait for democracy to prosper and for Moroccan differences with Western Sahara to subside. Even today, the UN-brokered cease-fire that came about in 1991, hasn’t settled the issues. Many of Morocco’s opponents- harmless lives in Sub Sahara- have fled to Algeria.
Furthermore, many refugees fled to and fled from Morocco, moving to Algeria and vice-versa. And then, finally, there was some hope for refugee lives when in 2016, the Moroccan government introduced changes that allowed refugees to establish their own co-operatives. Aggrieved lives looking so desperately to get a move on and achieve something on their own saw this as a boon. And how uniquely have some people prospered it ought to be told.
In the words of the UNHCR refugee agency, “Morocco is home to about 7,000 refugees and asylum-seekers from more than 50 countries. More than 3,000 are Syrians, the largest group, followed by about 530 Yemenis who have sought refuge from the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. Uncertainty also seems to be languishing to when might this man-made crisis come to an end.
The kingdom remains a country of transit for many, but in recent years it has become a destination for refugees from sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.”
Now after recognizing this trend, the government, under the instructions of King Mohammed, adopted a new immigration and asylum policy in September 2013. This was a watershed moment in the lives of so many refugees who were devoid of hope and any sign of stability. The new ruling meant new protections for refugees in Morocco, providing access to public education, health services and the job market.
As a result, many co-operatives have prospered. Among them- a kindergarten actually. A group of Yemeni refugees, whose lives have been shattered back at home following the worst travesty in Yemeni history; a nearly irreparable humanitarian crisis- came together to open a Kindergarten school. And now, there’s hope that this can actually transform the fate of the collective being forced to leave their exiled lands and reside in Morocco.
One of the leading forces behind the new Moroccan Kindergarten is Yemenese national Abdullah, who’s 45 and resided once in the capital city of Sana’a. He’s now in Morocco and lives peacefully where he registered himself as a refugee when it seemed that he may no longer be able to return back to his homeland. So many lives have begun anew here in friendly Morocco and have espoused a new direction for fruition seeking resuscitation.
Mr Abdullah, a well-educated Yemeni living in Morocco stated proudly, “Our school follows the Moroccan educational system, and we promote the values of honesty, transparency, kindness and respect for our employees.”
And that’s not all there is to the changing fate of many a refugee cooperatives. In a fresh new development, it is reported that 10 Yemeni refugee women living in Morocco shall soon be opening a restaurant that will specialise in traditional Yemeni cuisine. This will not only promote breeding of cross-cultural ties rather also engender confidence among refugees living here to become self-independent and contribute constructively toward self-development and therefore, toward the society.
Those lives that are in exile seem to have some hope at last and isn’t that a win for everyone?