Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Workers' remittances in the EU27 amounted to €26 bn in 2006

According to a recent survey of Member States' statistics, the money sent by migrants to their former country of residence, usually referred to as workers' remittances, from the EU27 Member States amounted to €26 bn in 2006, compared with €23 bn in 2005. These figures include both intra-EU27 and extra-EU27 flows.

Flows to other Member States accounted for a much lower share than flows to countries outside the EU27. In 2006, intra-EU27 flows accounted for €7 bn or one quarter of the total, and extra-EU27 flows for €19 bn or three quarters, the same proportions as in 2005. Spain, UK, Italy, Germany and France are the main remitting Member States. These five Member States account for more than 85% of total EU27 remittances.

In 2004, the 10 most important remittance corridors identified were Germany-Turkey, France-Morocco, France-Portugal, Spain-Morocco, Spain-Colombia, Germany-Poland, Spain-Ecuador, France-Algeria, Italy-Albania, and Germany-Serbia and Montenegro. Apart from intra-EU remittance flows, the main global regions of destination were non-EU Europe, North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Morocco's trade gap widens as grain imports surge

Morocco's trade deficit grew 27 percent in the first nine months of the year as grain imports surged to make up for a poor domestic harvest and export growth lagged, figures from the government's Exchange Office showed.

However, increases in remittances from Moroccans abroad and growing tourism revenue boosted the central bank's net foreign assets to 186.3 billion Moroccan dirhams, up 7 percent from last December.

January-to-September imports grew 15 percent to 181.8 billion dirhams. The value of wheat imports more than doubled to 5.25 billion dirhams, with foreign wheat purchases by volume up 59 percent at 2.36 million tonnes.

The average wheat import price was 2,222 dirhams per tonne, up 37 percent from the same nine-month period a year earlier.

Government reforms to boost industry and transport infrastructure and improve low-income housing created more demand for foreign heavy equipment and materials.

Imports of finished capital goods like industrial vehicles and railway rolling stock were up 14 percent at 40 billion dirhams.

Exports climbed 4.7 to 87 billion dirhams, with a sharp increase in sales of fertilisers and phosphates.

Tourism income grew 10 percent to 45 billion dirhams and remittances by Moroccans living abroad climbed 15 percent to 41.1 billion dirhams.

Foreign investment and loans grew 3.3 percent to 23.4 billion dirhams.

Purchases of energy-related products, which inflated the trade deficit last year, were up 5.1 percent at 36 billion dirhams.

Morocco's government hopes the opening this summer of one of Africa's biggest container ports near the Strait of Gibraltar will give a boost to export trade.

The $2 billion Tanger-Med port sits on one of the world's biggest shipping routes and a series of low-tax industrial parks are being built nearby to encourage foreign firms to delocalize and take advantage of Morocco's low labour costs.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Dual epidemic threatening Africa

A rising number of dual infections with HIV and tuberculosis has created a co-epidemic spreading throughout sub-Saharan Africa, researchers say.

Local health systems are unable to contain the co-epidemic, the Forum for Collaborative HIV Research says.

The situation is made more urgent by increasing rates of drug-resistant TB in areas with a high prevalence of HIV.

Half of all new TB cases in sub-Saharan Africa are now HIV co-infected, forum director Veronica Miller said.


TB, which is a disease of the respiratory system, is not uncommon - about 20% of the world's population has it but most will not develop the disease.

However in Africa's slums, where people live crammed together in tin shacks, TB is rife, the report notes.

Because HIV has destroyed the immune systems of at least a quarter of the population in some areas, far more people are not only developing TB but spreading it to otherwise healthy neighbours.

Areas around the South African city of Cape Town are among the worst affected. In one community in the western Cape, a child is 100 times more likely to contract TB than anyone living in the developed world.

But one Cape Town-based researcher, Dr Stephen Lawn, says existing tests often cannot spot TB before it is too late and health care systems cannot cope.

Without proper treatment, the Forum for Collaborative HIV Research says, 90% of people with HIV die within months of contracting TB.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Genocide investigations into Morocco's administration of the Sahara

Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón has ordered the opening of an inquiry into allegations of genocide in the Moroccan-administered territory of Western Sahara.

The Western Saharan plaintiffs are also looking for accountability for the 542 Sahrawis that Morocco made "disappear" during the war with the Sahrawi pro-independence movement Polisario Front from 1975-1991, according to the group "Sahrawi Association of Victims of Grave Human Rights Violations Committed by the Moroccan State" (ASVDH).

The file also highlights crimes against humanity committed by Morocco since its invasion of Western Sahara, "notably the frequent use of torture by Moroccan authorities against Western Saharan nationalists," according to ASVDH.

These charges reach the highest levels of the Moroccan security establishment, even into the royal palace, according to the Spanish daily 'El Pais'. The paper says 13 top police chiefs are under Judge Garzón's inspection.

Further, Morocco's late and often criticised Interior Minister, Driss Basri, is named, as is Yassine Mansouri, a close advisor to Morocco's King Mohammed VI. The head of Morocco's armed forces, Housni Benslimane, and head of National Security, Hamidou Lanigri, are also accused.

In a statement referred to by official Sahrawi sources, the Spanish judge said he had "decided to accept the competence to judge on claims of genocide crimes, torture and assassinations."

Spanish laws allow the national judiciary to investigate and try alleged crimes against humanity committed outside Spain if not investigated in the country where they were committied. Mr Garzón earlier made international headlines when he tried to get Chile's ex-Dictator Augosto Pinochet arrested and sent to Spain for alleged crimes against humanity when in charge in the Santiago presidency.

The decision by Mr Garzón to investigate possible genocide in Moroccan-administered Western Sahara was hailed by Sahrawi organisations. The Association of the Families of Sahrawi Prisoners and Disappeared (Afapredesa) said it was satisfied by the decision, which could "give justice to the Sahrawi people and the victims of the Moroccan genocide in Western Sahara."

Official sources in Morocco yet have to react to the decision. The Rabat government claims that Western Sahara is an integrated part of its territory, referring to it as the "Southern Provinces" or "Moroccan Sahara", claiming the same human rights standards are implemented here as in the rest of Morocco.

Rights group denounces arrest of asylum seekers in Morocco

A human rights group, Migreurop Network, on Tuesday denounced the arrest of asylum seekers from sub-Saharan Africa in Morocco and called for their immediate release.

In a release issued in Paris, Migreurop Network said on 26 October, 2007 at least 100 people were arrested by Moroccan police and transported to Rabat and Oujda.

It said among those arrested were refugees and asylum seekers who had been freed earlier. It added that others were tranpsorted by bus to Oujda and then to the Algerian border .

Migreurop Network called on Morocco to deliver on its commitments, including the provisions of the United Nations Convention Against Torture, and not to send migrants to a country where they could be given bad treatment.

They said the deportation of migrants and asylum seekers to the Algerian frontier was a violation of the law, adding that every migrant must enjoy basic human rights.