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Law Clinic and Integration Hub at University Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah, Fes

Promoting the inclusion of sub-Saharan refugees and migrants in Fes, Morocco through a whole-of-society approach

Photo of Katie Bercegeay
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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

Due to the EU’s tightened border security, Morocco is increasingly a destination of passage and residence for sub-Saharan migrants and refugees. Authorities have acted since 2011 to incorporate more humanitarian and rights-based stances into Morocco’s new constitution and revised migration policy. However, years post-reform, many migrants and refugees continue to live in clandestine conditions, suffer unemployment, face tension with locals, and remain unaware of their rights. In 2016, law students in Fes diagnosed the need to help migrants and displaced persons. They proposed a law clinic to strengthen CSOs, to build the capacity of migrants and refugees through legal aid and entrepreneurship, and to advance community cohesiveness and sustainability. This project aims to establish that Law Clinic as well as an Integration Hub at University Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah in Fes, Morocco. It will offer free legal aid and capacity building to people on the move and civil society organizations while offering law and education students optional, supervised clinical experience that supplements their academic requirements. Beyond this, it is a multi-faceted, whole-of-society approach to advance the integration of people on the move into Moroccan communities through not only legal aid, but also collaborative learning and participatory democratic project planning, entrepreneurship training and starter grants, guided trust-building and intercultural dialogue, Arabic language classes, and extracurricular activities that give opportunity to all parties, Moroccan and migrant, to collectively explore and appreciate the history and culture of both Morocco and the homelands of people on the move. The Law Clinic and Integration Hub is a bridge for intercultural dialogue essential for building a future of coexistence for Morocco’s diversity. It has the potential to act as a model by which academia and civil society play a crucial role in the inclusion of people on the move.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

This project will be initially established in Fes, Morocco, which is located on a major migration and trafficking route, at the University Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah. Through the High Atlas Foundation's established partnership with the University, previous joint projects have led to the identification of the need to pursue the Law Clinic and Integration Hub at the University's Law Faculty due to the notable lack of support for and knowledge of legal rights among local migrants.

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

The Law Clinic and Integration Hub aims to begin to build trust among sub-Saharan people on the move and Fez locals, seeking to transform the relationship between them from one of strangers who feel threatened by one another to one of neighbors who support each other. It also aims to harbor the lived experience of both migrants and Moroccans to strengthen advocacy efforts that can affect positive social change. It aims to bridge migration policy to practice, and academia to communities in need.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

The Law Clinic and Integration Hub aims to offer joy, hope, and dignity in addition to security. Primarily, it promotes dignity. By providing legal orientation and aid, migrants have free access to learn about their own rights and responsibilities whether they intend to continue moving or settle in Morocco. The ability to advocate for oneself, whether to authorities, traffickers, or locals, is so powerful, yet most lack the ability and knowledge to do so. Additionally, with access to small business training, starter grants, and basic language, people on the move can become self-sustaining community members. Through community dialogue, they have the opportunity to tell their stories, inspire support for themselves and other people on the move, and learn about the challenges Moroccans face, too. All of the above activities invoke hope in their own ways--hope for control over one's own life. We hope to spark joy through multicultural activities such as potlucks and soccer games.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

This idea aims to create and sustain a safe space, the Law Clinic and Integration Hub, where people on the move and Moroccans can seek and/or provide legal aid, engage in important intercultural dialogue, and harness their needs and strengths toward the inclusive social and economic growth of a diverse Moroccan society. More concretely: Law Students, CSOs, and migrants will have a firmer understanding of their rights and responsibilities under Moroccan law; CSOs and migrants will be able to use a participatory approach to project planning and management and will have begun implementing human development and/or income-generating projects with starter grants; People on the move will have had the opportunity to learn about Moroccan language and culture from new neighbors, and vice versa; Participants will have partaken in intercultural dialogues and extracurricular activities for the sake of trust-building. HAF and USMBA will implement MEAL, including surveys and focus groups.

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

This idea is the combination of a variety of projects and policies. Some of these include: 1) The survey conducted by law students in Fes in 2016 which identified the need for this project; 2) A successful previously-established Legal Aid Program which HAF implemented with the Faculty of Law in Mohammedia, Morocco which involved 39 law students and 105 CSO leaders, nearly half women. The LAP has continued to provide 2800 hours of legal aid since the project ended; 3) Various "Welcoming" initiatives and programs. We are particularly keen to utilize resources from Welcoming America / Welcoming Refugees as well as previous work experience in US refugee resettlement and community integration efforts; 4) The Global Pacts for Migration and Refugees; and 5) St. Andrew's Refugee Services in Cairo, Egypt. Fes is a Moroccan treasure full of talent. Its people and its new community members deserve an avenue to support one another toward a shared sustainable development and social growth.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

Fes is located on a major migration and trafficking route between sub-Saharan Africa and Europe. For years, it has been a through-way, but as people on the move are increasingly blocked at Europe's gateway, migrants and refugees are spending more time here than planned for. A well-known makeshift camp behind the Fes Train Station has been evacuated a number of times and has even been burned down. Most people on the move are from Central and West Africa. Unfortunately, racism, xenophobia, unfounded stigma, and fear often exacerbate tensions between them and local Moroccans. Work opportunities remain scarce, even for local people. Fes hosts a sizable international student community from sub-Saharan Africa and maintains at least one church heavily attended by this demographic. It is an imperial city, the religious capital of Morocco, and boasts several universities full of young talent, including USMBA. It sees millions of tourists each year which contribute substantially to its economy.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

Through HAF's participatory approach, each project utilizes each community's unique assets. In establishing the Law Clinic and Integration Hub at USMBA, the project inherently leverages and enhances the applied skills and knowledge of legal professionals and university law students to, in turn, provide much needed legal assistance to people on the move and the CSOs advocating on their behalf. We also hope to leverage local knowledge of history and the Moroccan language to enhance the welcoming effort in Fez. Additionally, through a participatory and collaborative series of capacity building workshops, CSOs and migrants alike will be able to identify their 1) personal strengths, 2) challenges to integrate and initiate development or small business projects, and 3) needs to be able to pursue a secure and prosperous future. Participants, Moroccan and migrant, will join together, utilizing their strengths, to plan and implement development, advocacy, and/or small business projects.

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

HAF's primary partner in establishing the Law Clinic and Integration Hub is the Law Faculty at the University Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah in Fes. HAF has worked with USMBA since 2015 when the Center of Community Consensus-Building, Sustainable Development, and Innovation was created to bridge the gap between academia and local communities and to facilitate the participation of traditionally excluded persons in decision-making and human development. It works with an appointed university liaison to facilitate project implementation and success and is interested to collaborate with other USBMA faculties and student groups (i.e., business and education) to enhance project depth. Other potential partners whom HAF may approach to collaborate on this project include: participant CSOs and migrants; national agencies for migration, asylum, and employment; IGOs and Moroccan NGOs implementing programming for people on the move in other parts of Morocco; local associations and businesses.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Arriving and settling at a destination community

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Service: A new or enhanced service that creates value for end beneficiaries

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Prototype: We have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.

Group or Organization Name

High Atlas Foundation (HAF)

Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

HAF is a US 501c3 and Moroccan non-profit which has Special Consultative Status at ECOSOC. It has supported Moroccan communities to design and manage initiatives focused on agriculture, clean drinking water, women, youth, technical training, and cultural preservation through a participatory approach. Since 2000, HAF’s work has reached 45,000+ individuals in Morocco, where it currently has projects in 16 provinces. HAF has worked for nearly 20 years to promote sustainable development in Morocco. Its reach is extensive, and it has ample experience training CSOs, connecting academia to communities, facilitating dialogues, empowering entrepreneurs, and establishing a legal aid program. HAF and its university partner in Fes recognize that by uplifting people on the move, we contribute to the growth of society as a whole. Thus, we are thrilled to launch this project and, for the first time, apply and expand HAF’s proven method for the direct benefit of migrants in Morocco.

Website URL:

https://highatlasfoundation.org/

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country

Morocco / United States

Organization Headquarters: City / State

Marrakech / New York, New York

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Photo of Zulfiqar  Deo
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Katie Bercegeay Thanks for sharing your project. Its good to see this. I was wondering if your hub could also offer the people you support with entrepreneurship education? Platforms like https://www.edx.org/ can make good quality content available for near free. Look forward to seeing your project do well.

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