The visitor to Gibraltar will be struck by the large number of Moroccans on the Rock. Largely these are men. Moroccan workers were recruited to replace Spaniards after Franco closed the border in 1969. They are still there to this day.
For years they have lived in pitiable conditions with no rights a situation no doubt based on the belief that people from a third world country were third class.
The Moroccan Workers Association has represented its fellow nationals in recent years but now the TGWU/Unite union has stepped in to battle on their behalf.
Gibraltar’s Employment Minister Luis Montiel says that the conditions of the Moroccans on the Rock are better than they were in 1996. Sadly that isn’t saying much.
The TGWU/Unite district officer, Charlie Sisarello, stated: “Moroccan workers are imprisoned in Gibraltar and what Minister Montiel is saying is that they are prisoners with better conditions than in 1996.”
Only the Moroccans directly employed on the Rock are allowed to live there. Therefore they are separated from their families who are not allowed to visit them.
In Gibraltar they largely live in a government hostel. Sisarello describes it as being “unfit for human habitation”. I have seen these facilities and his description is spot on.
The union leader went on to describe the plight of the Moroccans: “The fact remains that they are stranded in Gibraltar and cannot cross the frontier to catch a ferry in Algeciras to see their families or attend to a family emergency. They depend on a highly unreliable ferry service. The situation can be described as nothing short of scandalous.”
Sisarello has also raised the issue of Moroccans receiving Gibraltarian naturalization. He has asked the Gibraltar Government to state whether there is one policy for EU nationals and another for Moroccans adding: “It is unacceptable that there should only be 20-30 naturalisations of Moroccans per annum. It is equally unacceptable that it is only in the case of Moroccans that the Government refer to the procedure being manageable.”
It is sad and tragic that in 2009 people are still treated as being an underclass – even more so as they are vital to the operation of many businesses and services on the Rock. Sad and tragic may be – but not unbelievable!