Sexual violence and sub-Saharan migrants in Morocco: A community-based participatory assessment using respondent driven sampling

Ines Keygnaert, Abdessamad Dialmy, Altay Manço, Jeroen Keygnaert, Nicole Vettenburg, Kristien Roelens, Marleen Temmerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The European Union contracted Morocco to regulate migration from so-called "transit migrants" from Morocco to Europe via the European Neighbourhood Policy. Yet, international organisations signal that human, asylum and refugee rights are not upheld in Morocco and that many sub-Saharan migrants suffer from ill-health and violence. Hence, our study aimed at 1) investigating the nature of violence that sub-Saharan migrants experience around and in Morocco, 2) assessing which determinants they perceive as decisive and 3) formulating prevention recommendations. Methods: Applying Community-Based Participatory Research, we trained twelve sub-Saharan migrants as Community Researchers to conduct in-depth interviews with peers, using Respondent Driven Sampling. We used Nvivo 8 to analyse the data. We interpreted results with Community Researchers and the Community Advisory Board and commonly formulated prevention recommendations. Results: Among the 154 (60 F-94 M) sub-Saharan migrants interviewed, 90% reported cases of multiple victimizations, 45% of which was sexual, predominantly gang rape. Seventy-nine respondents were personally victimized, 41 were forced to witness how relatives or co-migrants were victimized and 18 others knew of peer victimisation. Severe long lasting ill-health consequences were reported while sub-Saharan victims are not granted access to the official health care system. Perpetrators were mostly Moroccan or Algerian officials and sub-Saharan gang leaders who function as unofficial yet rigorous migration professionals at migration 'hubs'. They seem to proceed in impunity. Respondents link risk factors mainly to their undocumented and unprotected status and suggest that migrant communities set-up awareness raising campaigns on risks while legal and policy changes enforcing human rights, legal protection and human treatment of migrants along with severe punishment of perpetrators are politically lobbied for. Conclusion: Sub-Saharan migrants are at high risk of sexual victimization and subsequent ill-health in and around Morocco. Comprehensive cross-border and multi-level prevention actions are urgently called for. Given the European Neighbourhood Policy, we deem it paramount that the European Union politically cares for these migrants' lives and health, takes up its responsibility, drastically changes migration regulation into one that upholds human rights beyond survival and enforces all authorities involved to restore migrants' lives worthy to be lived again.

Original languageEnglish
Article number32
JournalGlobalization and Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 May 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR)
  • European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP)
  • Migrants
  • Morocco
  • Prevention
  • Rape
  • Respondent Driven Sampling (RDS)
  • Sexual violence


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