Headlined “more and more Moroccan boys to Europe“, Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad published an article on 18 April about a recent influx of migrants. According to the article, there is a marked increase in the number of under-aged Moroccan boys that come to Europe. Often denied asylum status, they stay illegally and fall of the authority’s radar. How exactly the authorities established that the Moroccans are indeed minors, remains wholly unclear.

The NRC claims that the rise is due to social unrest in Morocco’s Rif Mountains, as well as the introduction of mandatory military service. The most popular route is said to be through Spain, with Spanish authorities reporting 6.000 unaccompanied youths coming into the country in 2018. Spain now has 12.500 under-age illegal migrants on register, the vast majority from Morocco, double the number of the previous year and it is expected to rise further throughout 2019. Thousands of them stray into the rest of Europe, looking for a residence permit: the number of official registered as having gone ‘missing’ is now 5.950.

The article cites Stichting Nidos as an authority when it talks of these youths also coming to the Netherlands. Nidos, according to NRC, warns that:

“If the European Union does not make ironclad agreements with the Moroccan government to allow thousands of unaccompanied youths to return to their country, in time the problems will be uncontrollable.”

Director of Nidos Tin Verstegen states that:

“The boys have no perspective here at all. If they roam the streets they fall prey to drug pushers, pimps and Jihadists.”

Other organisations share Verstegen’s concerns. Vluchtelingenwerk sees the boys as a “vulnerable group” that doesn’t wait for their asylum procedure to end before ‘going rogue’. A spokesperson for Vluchtelingenwerk says that this can lead to “harrowing situations“. Presumably, he means for the youths.

According to Nidos, there are “several hundreds” of boys in the Netherlands and their number is growing. In the first three months of 2019, the Dutch immigration services (IND) received 53 requests for asylum, which suggests a significant growth this year from previous years (145 in 2018; 11 in 2017). These requests are almost all turned down, but according to Nidos they are but the tip of the iceberg as far as incoming youths are concerned.

One of Verstegen’s worries is that these boys will further erode the willingness of the Dutch to receive asylum-seekers, because these boys specifically seem so prone to crime. Verstegen’s reasoning is very telling of where his priorities lie:

“[The Moroccans] cause a nuisance with their petty criminal offences. The average Dutchman does not see the difference between an asylum-seeker from Syria and this group. [Refugee]centers that were well integrated are suddenly under pressure.”

Apparently, the Dutch do not have the right to be protected from criminal behaviour – even though the ‘prey’ of “drug pushers, pimps and Jihadists” can be argued to potentially be very dangerous indeed. It is simply that the ‘average Dutchman’ cannot differentiate between one group of asylum-seekers committing ‘petty crime’ and the other.

Seemingly oblivious to this partisan stance, the article moves on to ‘fixing the problem’. Until now, the paper tells its audience, European countries have pursued their own policies regarding the boys. The Netherlands, Latvia, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Slovakia sent the boys back home if they are refused asylum. Morocco only seldom co-operates, however. Only France and Spain manage to occasionally make deals to send under-age youths back home.

The NRC now gives a platform to MEP Kati Piri, who is of the opinion the EU should do something. Her analysis of the problem is internally contradictory though. On the one hand, she claims that some Moroccans may have left for Europe because they are afraid of being incarcerated because of their involvement with ‘social protests’. It is difficult to mesh that with a growth in the number of under-age boys coming to Europe, unless ‘social protest’ is another way to say ‘riots’. Both of which do intend to overlap a bit based on who you’re asking. Yet at the same time, she is willing to admit that some of the Moroccans have left for Europe out of more mercenary motives.

So her solution is to work with a government that she says jailed “about 200 political prisoners” for “up to 20 years” in connection with those ‘socials protests’. The goal of the co-operation should be to “improve the social-economic position of marginalised groups.” There might be a slight… disconnect there. If Morocco decides it doesn’t want to play ball,

“we will have to threaten freezing financial aid funds.”

Mind you, not actually freezing them. Just threaten it.

Let’s allow for the possibility that Piri’s diagnosis of the problem is correct and her proposal, therefore, a solution to the problem – which is debatable. If you are unwilling to do more than threaten, you might just as well accept. Which, let’s be honest, is pretty much exactly what Brussels has been doing for years. Why wait this long to spring into action anyway? Hey, aren’t there elections soon?