New Publication: Urban Geopolitics and the Decentring of Migration Diplomacy in EU-Moroccan Affairs

By William Kutz and Sarah Wolff


In 2018, the International Organization for Migration stated that ‘migration has nearly become synonymous with urbanization, given the dominance of the city as the destination of most migrants’. The geopolitical dimension of migration governance is especially important in Mediterranean cities where the European Union’s (EU) efforts to push border management onto external actors has occurred alongside the transfer of new powers, competencies, and responsibilities for local authorities. Morocco is one such country where a number of administrative and territorial reforms have sought to transform the territoriality of migration governance, and by extension the structure of Euro-Mediterranean affairs. Our objective is to examine more fully how distinctly local aspects of Moroccan migration diplomacy have been harnessed as a force for geopolitical action today. The approach serves to decentre analysis of EU migration policy by rescaling the focus of migration to the urban peripheries of Europe, and to thereby contest Eurocentric accounts of migration governance in the region. Based on an analysis of Moroccan cities’ involvement in migration governance, including the MC2CM Project – a Mediterranean network of cities supported by EU and international actors – we argue that the rescaling of migration diplomacy aims to ‘change the narrative’ about Morocco’s capacity to manage immigration in light of international condemnation of state violence towards sub-Saharan migrants. In particular, devolution is skilfully used to cast Morocco as an advocate for the empowerment of local authorities managing migration, and migrants themselves as an opportunity for socio-economic development. At the same time, however, we observed that the rescaling of migration governance does not so much change the prevailing autocratic securitization of demographic mobility, but rather restructures its coordination through new governing actors (cities) and management techniques (migration).

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