By: Sarah Touahri
An amendment to the Nationality Code will allow mothers married to foreigners to pass on Moroccan citizenship to their children. (Magharebia)
Much to the delight of many families and campaigners, the long-awaited bill to amend the Nationality Code was adopted by the cabinet on January 18th, 2007. It will now go to parliament for final approval.
Members of Parliament and civil society have been lobbying for years to try to put an end to the plight of many families in which the mother is Moroccan and the father is foreign. The amendment to the Nationality Code will allow Moroccan women to pass on their nationality to their children provided that their marriages were contracted in accordance with the provisions of the Family Code. However, children of fathers from countries where dual nationality is not permitted will have to wait until they reach the age of 18 before they can choose which nationality they wish to take up.
According to Fattoum Kodama, a lawyer and member of the parliamentary committee for legislation and human rights, Moroccan citizenship is one of the most difficult kinds of citizenships to obtain. She says restrictions on a Moroccan woman married to a foreigner begin as soon as her children are born. Children live as foreigners in their own country and have to renew their residence permits regularly.
“[Families] have to cope with very difficult situations … especially when the parents have separated, since a number of foreign fathers have abused their custody and kinship rights,” she says.
Only 1,646 have been able to obtain Moroccan citizenship since 1965. Applications for citizenship are considered by the Ministry of Justice, which has now announced that it will begin considering 500 new applications.
The 1958 Nationality Code made it difficult for children of mixed-nationality couples to receive state grants at universities, there is a quota for children of mixed-nationality couples.
Fatima Maghnaoui, head of the Annajda office of the Women’s Action Union, recounted the plight of a Moroccan woman who is married to an Iraqi. The couple has four children. The woman returned to Morocco with her family after the Gulf War, but afterwards her husband took her children away from her. “He returned to his country and the woman couldn’t do anything because she has no documentary evidence. But after the law is passed, she will be able to obtain Moroccan citizenship for her children, will receive documents for them and will be able to begin legal proceedings.”
A large number of families are happy that the bill has been approved. Amal Zaytoune, who is married to a Syrian national, has been waiting for seven years for her son to be given Moroccan citizenship. “We live in Marrakech, and my son feels Moroccan, but he still has to renew his residence permit every year.”
Khalid Dembri, 40, who has an Algerian father and Moroccan mother, is in the same situation. “I live as both a Moroccan and an Algerian, but I can’t vote in Morocco. My son’s in the same situation because I’m married to a Moroccan woman — but thanks to the reform, things are going to change.”