Tangier - Moroccans have been crossing the Med looking for a better life in Spain for decades. Now the trend is turning in a different direction, as out-of-work Spaniards head south to Morocco's shores. The economic crisis continues in Spain, with unemployment and austerity wreaking havoc with the people, who are just trying to get by and make a living.
Now Spaniards are heading south to Morocco, seeking employment opportunities...The hardest part has been the decision he made to leave his wife and two young children in Spain while he headed over to Morocco:
“The most difficult part about living here is not having my family by my side,” Martinez, said, while looking at photos of his children, Soraya, 10, and Nicolas, 3.
Emilio Rodriguez is another Spaniard who has made the move and now runs a small construction company in Tangier, northern Morocco, where he also sought greener professional pastures. He told AFP, "In Spain at the moment things are going badly." "Over there I sold everything. There is no work, no bank financing," he added, explaining that he had moved to Morocco's port city of Tangiers, just across the Straits of Gibraltar from the southern tip of his home country, Spain, at the start of 2012.
Another recent emigrant from Spain is José Manuel Fernandez, who is presently exploring his options in Morocco. Fernandez works for a Spanish company specializing in building golf courses. "I came to see how it goes here. I saw there were lot of facilities, ways of doing things to develop the country, especially in the construction sector," said Fernandez.
It seems ironic that for many years, Moroccans have been heading north to Spain looking for a better life, and in fact, they form one of the largest immigrant populations in Europe and Spain has the second largest community of Moroccans. But in recent years, Spaniards have been making similar moves, albeit in a different direction geographically.
Apparently it is difficult to assess numbers. as many Spaniards travel to Morocco as tourists and return home every three months to collect unemployment benefits, and also to make sure they do not overstay their visas. A young Spanish intern with a local NGO said, "Many work informally and regularly travel to Spain to receive unemployment benefits and to avoid being illegal" in Morocco.
The Interior Ministry in Morocco, however, is attempting to keep a tighter rein on the back-and-forth process, by urging Spanish arrivals to comply with all the necessary formalities. Officially, 2,660 Spaniards have reportedly registered for social security in Morocco in 2012, which is slightly up from 2,507 in 2011. However, the actual numbers are believed to be much higher.
In the economic world, Morocco's key trading partners are Spain, and also France, the latter country having divided and ruled the country as a protectorate in the past. Morocco does, however, have economic problems all of its own, and despite a growth rate of between 2.5 and 5.0 percent in recent years, youth unemployment in the country currently stands at more than 20 percent. However, this isn't deterring Spaniards from trying to find work there.
Marian Gallande told the media, "I arrived in Tangiers with my daughter three months ago. I'm looking for a job." She was also finding it hard to get by in Spain. "I earned €1,000 euros ($1,300) a month, but the cost of living is too high there," she says.
"I prefer to be in Tangiers. Spain is my country, it's true," she adds, watching the ships leaving the port, "but I am more at ease here, where society is not closed as some people think." Spanish King Juan Carlos will be starting a three-day state visit to Morocco on Monday. Relationships between Madrid and Rabat have apparently steadily improved in the more than five decades since Morocco achieved independence. Possibly he should rather be exploring why so many of his own people are leaving for those same northern African shores.