Monday, May 09, 2005

Moroccan workers President to press Gibraltar Government for fair treatment

F Oliva reports

* Moroccan workers to claim Community Care payments

Gibraltar continues to breach European Union legislation and International Labour Organisation regulations on the right of immigrant workers, M Sasri the indefatigable president of the Moroccan Workers Association declared yesterday.

Speaking to the Chronicle, he said that Britain is a signatory to these conventions while Gibraltar “like the rest of Europe,” has to abide with international legal obligations that “immigrant workers cannot remain temporarily resident in the host country for more than five years without obtaining full residence.”

Meanwhile the MWA are unhappy that at the age of 60 they retire without having a right to Community Care and believe this entitlement should also apply to them because “to all intents and purposes we reside here.”

M Sasri also said the re-grouping of families was a recognised basic human right that was still denied to Moroccans in Gibraltar. He said there were numerous cases of divided families, where some children lived with their parents locally and others were cared for by relatives in Morocco.

“We believe that a one year open multi-visa for all immigrants regardless of nationality – around 2,000 – would alleviate the problem,” he said.

The local government has consistently argued that in the context of the Rock’s physical and economic limitations, conceding family regrouping would substantially increase Gibraltar’s population with the consequent demand on the local services. In short, Gibraltar would be unable to cope.

“We understand this, and Gibraltar’s special circumstances,” continued M Sasri, “however a formula – without prejudice to the obtention of the full right in the future – should be devised to protect workers who have spent their entire working lives in Gibraltar.”

M Sasri said there had been progress in a number of areas such as work permits that were working reasonably well, and the access to local schooling by Moroccan children – already in the region of 150 youths have benefited from this.

Individual cases have also been solved, but in his view, these have been exceptional favours granted by the administration rather than recognition of rights and entitlements.

“We have advanced from the situation in the past when Moroccans were only given monthly work permits, and this meant that if he lost his job, the child could no longer go to school.”

He said the MWA was concerned that long standing Moroccan workers with decades of service to the Rock were still missing out on permanent residency and the range of rights and benefits that goes with it.

“When a Moroccan worker reaches retirement age and returns home, he finds he has no rights to a health service when he most needs it, other than outpatient/emergency treatment or by paying for it privately. He finds, as a pensioner that he has to pay for the health service in his own country.”

He said these issues had been on the table for a number of years with varied responses from the administration showing a greater or lesser receptiveness to their representations at different times.

Additionally problems with the “unreliable” ferry service, the non-availability of supplementary benefit to unemployed Moroccan workers who exhaust their 13 weeks cover, and the problems to cross the frontier to catch a boat in Algeciras remain unsolved.

“We will continue pursuing our objectives for fair treatment,” he added.


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