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Morocco and UNHCR team up for greater social protection for refugees

The Moroccan Ministry of Health and Social Protection and the United Nations Refugee Agency in the North African country signed an agreement aimed at promoting refugees' access to health and social protection
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REUTERS/BORJA SUAREZ -  -   Migrants

The Moroccan kingdom is a transit country for hundreds of refugees. The number of refugees and asylum seekers registered in Morocco has only increased in recent years. In 2020, there was an increase of almost 30% compared to 2019. In Morocco, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) provides humanitarian assistance and protection to refugees and works on durable solutions, focusing on local integration or resettlement to a third country for the most vulnerable. 

Together with the government and its partners, UNHCR also provides access to education and health services. 90% of refugee children were enrolled in primary schools in 2020 thanks to the education programme of UNHCR and its partners. Ensuring equal access to education is a priority for UNHCR. In Morocco, 48% of refugee children enrolled in school are girls. 

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AFP/ANTONIO SEMPERE - Citizens at Moroccan border crossing point

In addition, UNHCR ensures access to asylum and protection procedures for refugees in Morocco, while working with the Moroccan authorities in the framework of the National Strategy for Immigration and Asylum (SNIA). In 2016, the country introduced new changes that enable refugees to establish their own cooperatives and achieve sustainable livelihoods. Refugees can make a positive contribution to the labour market by setting up small businesses that employ Moroccan nationals. 

Signed by the Minister of Health and Social Protection, Khalid Ait Taleb, and the UNHCR representative in Rabat, François Reybet-Degat, the agreement sits within the framework of the national immigration and asylum policy, initiated by High Instructions of King Mohamed VI in September 2013, with the aim of raising refugees' access to health care and the social protection system. According to the Ministry's press release, this partnership effectively supports the national strategy for immigration and asylum.

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REUTERS/JUAN MEDINA - Clandestine camp called Bolingo in northern Morocco

The agreement will allow for joint operations to facilitate refugees' and asylum seekers' access to basic health services, as well as secondary and tertiary services, especially in more specialised areas. The convention allows refugees to have easier access to national social protection systems. In his speech, Ait Taleb recalled that the Ministry of Health has developed a national strategy in the field of health and migration for 2021-2025, which aims to improve access to health services for migrants, including vulnerable refugees living in Morocco. Prevention and promotion of health and health care, respect for human rights and equality and equal conditions. 

In the press release, the minister also indicated that as a result of the agreement, several specific conventions will be concluded, which will take into account the different characteristics and special circumstances of refugees. Reybet-Degat stressed that the signing of this framework cooperation agreement is an important step in the work of integrating refugees into the health and social security systems in line with the country's migration and asylum strategy, which she described as an "inclusive and humane" strategy.

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REUTERS/JUAN MEDINA - Border fence between Morocco and the North African enclave of Melilla

In particular, he said the joint initiative with the Ministry of Health embodies the vision of the King of Morocco to support an inclusive immigration and asylum policy based on human rights and international law, and reiterated the commitment of both parties to promote better access to health and social care. The UN commended the Ministry's continued efforts in favour of 19,000 asylum seekers and refugees in more than 79 locations on Moroccan territory. 

This partnership confirms, in fact, the approach adopted by the Moroccan kingdom, based on respect for the rights of refugees and asylum seekers in accordance with the Geneva Convention in 1951. It should be noted in this regard that Morocco is now the first African country to sign the Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.