A new Moroccan report, drawn up by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives, reveals the situation of Moroccans who decided to leave the country and join the jihadist ranks of Daesh in Syria and Iraq.
The report, under the name "Reconnaissance Mission", has been issued in order to assess the situation of Moroccan jihadists who are stranded in these countries. According to the document, '1,659 Moroccan jihadists left the country (it is not specified since when) to join various terrorist movements in Syria and Iraq'. The report adds that in addition to this figure, at least "290 Moroccan women and 628 minors went to the affected regions (Syria and Iraq)".
Of the 1,659 registered jihadists, '345 terrorists returned to Morocco and were prosecuted under national legislation that punishes joining terrorist groups anywhere under the provisions of the Penal Code, while a significant number (not specified) of their fighters and families were killed'. As of this moment and according to the document, "there are 250 fighters detained in Syria and Iraq".
As for the current situation of women and children who are stranded, at least "138 women are still alive, in addition to 400 minors, of whom only 153 are confirmed as having been born in Morocco, while the rest have increased in the areas of tension in question or in some European countries". These data have led the Moroccan Parliament to demand that the government "issue laws that establish the legislative framework to address the special and exceptional situations in which Moroccan children and women are trapped in hotspots of tension in Sira and Iraq, in order to facilitate the process of their rapid return".
In addition, they recommend working as soon as possible "to sign draft judicial and legal cooperation agreements between the Kingdom of Morocco and the Republic of Iraq to facilitate the transfer of sentenced persons between the two countries" and requested "to implement the content of the agreement on the transfer of sentenced persons signed between Morocco and Syria in 2006".
Europe has differed from the transfer policy adopted by Morocco since it considers the returned jihadists "a danger to the security of the country" and decided to keep the jihadists imprisoned or tried in Syria and Iraq, while the administration of former President Donald Trump warned European countries that they should repatriate their prisoners so that they can be tried in their country of origin and be under greater control given the risk of collapse of Kurdish prisons and the difficult control inside the Al-Hol camps.
From a more social perspective, the report has positioned itself in favour of "providing psychological and social assistance to children and women who are trapped in hotspots of tension in Syria and Iraq" as well as "establishing bridges of communication between children and women trapped in hotspots of tension in Syria and Iraq and their families, relatives and friends in Morocco".
Along these lines, in 2020 the Moroccan House of Representatives approved the construction of an exploratory committee with the aim of listening to returnees from Syria and Iraq in order to collect data from Moroccans currently there and to take measures and observations in this regard.
In this regard, in Spain, in the 2020 exercise, 62% of the 37 jihadists who were arrested by the State Security Forces were Moroccan nationals. Of those arrested, four of them did not have the proper documentation to be in Schengen territory, the European area that does not have border controls at the common borders.
This situation reveals the need for bilateral cooperation between Spain and Morocco in the field of counterterrorism. Along these lines, in 2019, the Minister of the Interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, together with his Moroccan counterpart, Abdelouafi Laftit, signed a cooperation agreement on the fight against crime with the aim of strengthening "collaboration between the two countries in the investigation and prosecution of terrorism and organised crime", as reported in a statement by the Spanish government. In addition, the text envisaged "new mechanisms for the exchange of information and the provision of operational assistance between law enforcement agencies and forces". However, the current diplomatic crisis between the two countries unleashed by the entry of Polisario Front leader Brahim Ghali into Spain without prior consultation with Morocco has affected the cooperation agreements that both kingdoms have assiduously signed.
The replacement of the now former foreign minister, Arancha González Laya, by Ambassador José Manuel Albares heralds a new situation in relations between the two countries that augurs a possible reconciliation. This was revealed by the new foreign minister after sending a message of reconciliation to Morocco, stating that "relations with Morocco, a great neighbour and friend of the south, must be strengthened". In this way, Albares has made his first move as new foreign minister, adopting a reconciliatory and appeasing stance in order to rebuild historic relations that have brought great plans and cooperation agreements in the south-south neighbourhood.