Operation: Opération: Morocco



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Key Figures

2020 year-end results
5,000 refugees had access to secondary and tertiary medical care
4,500 households received COVID-19 cash assistance
3,614 asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR in 2020
1,300 households received conditional cash grants for education
75 income generating activities were funded for 80 beneficiaries, and over 100 activities were financially supported following the COVID-19 crisis
90% of primary school-aged refugee children were enrolled in primary education
2021 planning figures
1,200 vulnerable households will receive cash assistance
200 people of concern will be provided with entrepreneurship or business training
100% of people of concern will have access to primary health care services
95% of primary school-aged children will be enrolled in primary schools

People of Concern Personnes relevant de la compétence du HCR

Increase in
2020 13,549
2019 9,756
2018 7,775


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2020 {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"budget":[6.465548549999999,7.37972728,7.98954627,8.581289880000002,8.499999599999999,8.89999995],"expenditure":[4.539494009999999,5.61236189,6.16471016,6.21588113,7.14403976,null]} {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"p1":[6.465548549999999,7.37972728,7.98954627,8.581289880000002,8.499999599999999,8.89999995],"p2":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[null,null,null,null,null,null]} {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"p1":[4.539494009999999,5.61236189,6.16471016,6.21588113,7.14403976,null],"p2":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[null,null,null,null,null,null]}
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  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019
  • 2020
  • 2021

Operational context

Morocco, long a transit country for mixed movements, continued to gradually become a destination country for refugees and asylum-seekers in 2020. The Government’s National Strategy for Immigration and Asylum (NSIA)—launched in 2013—remained the national framework under which UNHCR operated. While fully included in the national health response, many people of concern felt the socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic, with UNHCR adapting its response to meet the heightened protection needs of refugees and asylum-seekers affected by COVID-19 and national response measures to contain its spread. UNHCR continued registration and refugee status determination, as well as providing psychosocial support, cash assistance, education support, socioeconomic integration opportunities, referrals for victims of gender-based violence, and legal services for the issuance of civil documentation.
Since 2018, the western Mediterranean has become the main route for migrant and refugee flows to Europe, due in part to the security situation in Libya and reinforced controls in neighbouring countries. In 2020, arrivals to Spain nearly doubled to 42,000, while arrivals to the Canary Islands increased from previous years to 23,000. As a result, Moroccan authorities scaled up efforts to prevent irregular movements towards Europe by dismantling smuggling and trafficking networks, and stepping up border monitoring and police interventions.

Despite significant challenges in terms of access to national documentation, the Government of Morocco continued to offer refugee protection and local integration opportunities. UNHCR continues to work through a multi-stakeholder approach, collaborating with key actors including national institutions, local authorities and civil society.

Population trends

As of 31 December 2020, 13,531 people of concern from 45 countries were registered with UNHCR, including 8,137 refugees and 5,393 asylum-seekers. Refugees originated primarily from the Syrian Arab Republic (55%), sub-Saharan Africa (25%)—mainly from the Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo—and the Middle East (15%)—mainly from Iraq, Palestine and Yemen.
UNHCR registered 3,614 new asylum-seekers in 2020, while the number of refugees grew to 8,137, up 20% from 6,757 in 2019.

Key achievements

  • Soon after the pandemic began, UNHCR launched five protection hotlines in three languages (Arabic, French and English), with a dedicated line for women and girls. Over 2,800 protection counselling sessions were conducted remotely, allowing for continuous identification of protection needs for refugees and asylum-seekers.  
  • More than 2,500 individuals received cash assistance and over 4,500 families received exceptional COVID-19 cash assistance. UNHCR supported the most vulnerable refugees (unaccompanied minors, single women, victims of gender-based violence and people with medical needs) with multipurpose cash assistance and education grants.
  • UNHCR supported Protection Working Groups in Oujda, Tangier and Casablanca, bringing together NGOs and institutional partners to respond to the needs of people of concern.
  • UNHCR’s health programme assisted over 5,000 refugees. During the COVID-19 crisis, UNHCR and its medical partner adapted assistance to ensure access to healthcare services, including the launch of medical hotlines for remote consultations. Refugees with chronic illnesses were supplied with medicines in designated centres or directly at their homes.
  • UNHCR signed a partnership agreement with the National Council of Doctors (CNOM) to facilitate access to specialized healthcare—including mental health services—for refugees and asylum-seekers.
  • In partnership with UNHCR, the High Commissioner for Planning conducted a study with 600 refugee families to assess the economic, social and psychological impact of the COVID-19 situation on affected families.  

Unmet needs

  • In 2020, due to lack of funding delivery of cash assistance for an increasing number of vulnerable refugees was limited. UNHCR also lacked resources to increase health and education support for refugees, particularly for students enrolled in graduate and post-graduate programmes.
  • UNHCR continued face difficulty in accessing people of concern in all 75 geographic locations of where refugees resided. Due to budgetary constraints, UNHCR was unable to extend certain protection and outreach activities to vulnerable persons and communities in these remote areas.
  • Due to a limited number of places and delayed departures, only 21 refugees were resettled in 2020 out of 100 places available.

Use of flexible funding (unearmarked or softly earmarked funding)

  • Flexible funding allowed UNHCR to provide early emergency COVID-19 cash assistance to 100% of refugees.  
  • UNHCR provided emergency housing to 44 extremely vulnerable refugees throughout the year thanks to flexible funding.   
  • Flexible funding also allowed UNHCR to organize protection workshops  with judges, lawyers, legal clinics, university students, Royal Gendarmerie, National Police as well as civil society organizations and  Protection Working Groups in Oujda, Tangier and Casablanca.

Working environment

Historically a transit country, Morocco is now also becoming a place of destination. Refugees, of which 55% are from the Syrian Arab Republic (Syria), reside in more than 50 locations across the country, which is a positive trend in terms of local integration, but also represents a challenge for the Government, UNHCR and partners to reach out to the most vulnerable and deliver necessary services.
To address such challenges, UNHCR has adopted a proactive outreach strategy of expanding cash-based interventions to reach the most vulnerable refugees, even in remote locations. Furthermore, UNHCR has increased the capacity of its partners to support UNHCR and the Government with undertaking regular joint outreach missions to remote locations in the field. In line with the Global Compact for Refugees, UNHCR has been expanding partnerships with the private sector to support refugees in Morocco and will continue to do so in 2020.
The National Immigration and Asylum Policy (PNIA), introduced in Morocco in 2013, enables refugees to enjoy protection in Morocco, including against refoulement and access to essential services, such as education, health care and employment. However, gaps in accessing documentation and employment persist, as well as gaps in accessing secondary and tertiary health care, due to refugees’ exclusion from the medical insurance scheme available for impoverished nationals. UNHCR is advocating with the Government to give full access to these services for refugees and will continue to do so in 2020. 
Pending the Government’s submission of the draft asylum law to Parliament, UNHCR remains responsible for the registration and refugee status determination (RSD) of asylum-seekers. Those who qualify for refugee status are referred by UNHCR to the Inter-ministerial Commission on Regularization under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Despite its suspension in March 2017, the Commission resumed services in December 2018. In 2020, its role will remain critical for UNHCR-registered refugees to ensure they are documented and have access to formal employment.


Key priorities

In 2020, UNHCR will focus on:
  • Supporting the Government in establishing a national asylum system;
  • Providing humanitarian assistance and protection to refugees, particularly to the most vulnerable;
  • Delivering institutional capacity-building for national actors involved in asylum management;
  • Implementing durable solutions for refugees, focusing on local integration or resettlement to a third country for the most vulnerable.
Latest contributions
  • 15-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • Germany
  • 14-OCT-2021
  • Qatar

    private donors

  • 12-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • Ireland
  • Italy

    private donors

  • 09-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • 08-OCT-2021
  • Japan

    private donors

  • 06-OCT-2021
    United States of America

    private donors

  • 05-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • Germany
  • 04-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • 01-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • Germany
  • 30-SEP-2021

    private donors

  • Switzerland

    private donors

  • Brazil

    private donors

  • Philippines

    private donors