The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and partners are working swiftly to adapt a pilot mobility programme appropriate to the COVID-19 situation – ever mindful of movement restrictions – that has impacted nearly 100 Moroccan post-graduate students currently in Spain.
IOM is an implementing partner of the “Young Generation as Change Agents” project. Funded by the European Union and launched in 2019, this project helps qualified young people migrate safely and legally to Spain from Morocco and then return.
The first-of-its-kind project is helping Moroccan graduates to earn a master’s degree in Spain during a one-year programme and then return to Morocco to contribute their learning and share skills within strategic sectors of the Moroccan economy, through entrepreneurship and other means.
All students are in good health and continue their studies online. University lectures switched to a digital format to keep courses moving and students active during the lockdown.
The students were scheduled to return to Morocco at the close of the academic year in July. This now will depend on progress in COVID-19's containment.
Mouad Rahmouni, a 25-year-old student of engineering, spent one year achieving his master’s degree in the Polytechnical University of Madrid.
“I am really grateful to have been granted this opportunity in Spain, since it allowed me to expand my technical skills in engineering. I am eager to put the skills I acquired at the service of my country,” he said.
Some 98 post-graduate students participating in the skilled “circular” migration project find they currently are unable to return to complete the programme in Morocco, until movement restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic are lifted.
“Obviously, the COVID-19 outbreak came with several operational challenges, but we are pleased to see that everyone involved in the YGCA European project is doing their utmost to ensure the best possible conditions for the students” explained Coral Martínez Íscar, Director of SEPIE, the organization that holds this project coordination.
IOM, together with its partners – the Spanish Service for the Internationalization of Education (SEPIE) and the Ministry of Universities – has been working to come up with a solution.
“Things were not easy for the students, especially being far from home during Ramadan. But contact was maintained on a nearly daily basis through WhatsApp,” said Oussama Elbaroudi, IOM’s project head in Madrid. “I was impressed by the solid group dynamic. Good humour was definitely important for lifting spirits and keeping morale high.”
In addition to monitoring the progress and wellbeing of the students, IOM and partners are liaising with the Moroccan Embassy to keep all informed about their citizens’ situation while assessing any potential vulnerabilities.
“Spain and Morocco have built solid cooperation on migration for decades,” said María Jesús Herrera, Chief of IOM’s mission in Spain. “The fact that both states have agreed to enact new schemes such as this shows a growing recognition of the importance of improving common and comprehensive migration governance tools.”
“We strongly believe that this European project is a win-win action for both countries of origin and destination and could pave the way towards a more regular programme,” added SEPIE Director, Coral Martínez. “Giving opportunities to younger generations is our best investment.”Distributed by APO Group on behalf of International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Moroccan students at an IOM pre-departure orientation session in Rabat prior to leaving for Spain and the outbreak of COVID-19 (Photo: IOM)