Between October and early November 2015, many young Moroccans have participated in the immigration lottery for entry into the USA. This is perhaps the only way open to all Moroccans to legally immigrate to the West.
Nearly three thousand Moroccans will be chosen to immigrate to the US as a result of the lottery. We are talking about 6% of the 50,000 visas that Washington provides to citizens of the world each year so that they are able to live in this country.
The US wants to encourage Moroccans to choose to immigrate there. Currently, there are between 150,000 and 200,000 Moroccans living in the US, a small figure compared with the more than four million Moroccans living abroad, especially if we take into account the wealth and size of the USA. There are linguistic and historical factors that serve to explain the small presence of Moroccans in the US, and among these we could highlight that:
Morocco has greater links with Europe than with the US. The EU is the main economic and political partner of Morocco abroad, so it is normal for Moroccan immigrants to first opt to migrate to Europe.
Moroccans generally have a French speaking educational background rather than an English one, so they often go to France to complete a university degree or to work. Even when they choose North America, Moroccans’ first preference is Canada, particularly the French-speaking region. Considering culture is a determining factor when choosing a destination to immigrate to, the cultural presence of the USA in the Moroccan imaginary is almost non-existent, except for Hollywood films.
Geography also plays a role. Reaching Europe is relatively easy for Moroccans, especially in the past, as it only requires crossing the Strait of Gibraltar. This is so even for those immigrants who are travelling illegally, who just need to cross the strait’s 14 miles in a patera (the name given to the smalls boats used to this end). However, to reach the US shores illegally would require, as a journalist specialised in illegal immigration wryly said, an aircraft carrier like the Nimitz.
Economy, and more specifically trade, is often a factor that favours human exchange. Morocco does not represent anything for the US economy, and the US plays a relatively minor role on the Moroccan economy. This explains why the economy has never favoured the development of relations between these countries, and the lack of Moroccan interest in the USA.
Morocco heavily backed the free-trade agreement with the US, signed in 2004 to develop bilateral relations, something that has not as yet happened.