Friday, September 24, 1999 Published at 15:04 GMT 16:04 UK
Morocco: The great return
Mohamed's annual trip home helps keep Morocco's economy afloat
By Ticky Monékosso in Tangier
Every year, the bulk of Morocco's economic migrants return home, en masse, for summer holidays.
They are known as the S'hab Taliane after those who first set out in the 1970s to Italy - one of the first European destinations for Moroccans.
Mohamed Hazzerdin, aged 29, is one of the almost two million Moroccans abroad.
He has lived in a working-class suburb near Lyon in France since he was seven and works in a car factory.
His father, who is now a retired migrant worker, and the rest of his family which includes three wives and 11 children under the age of 10, live in El borj in a large family house.
The small town's proximity to the port of Tangier made it the historical epicentre for migration to Europe - notably Spain, Italy and France - in search of jobs and better lives.
"In France, the life is very hard - many people sleep outside. But those who want to live honestly can do that," Mohamed says.
It takes 72 hours for Mohamed to get home as he and hundreds of thousands like him return for their annual holiday.
Known in official jargon as MREs (Marocains résidents ŕ l'étranger), they play an important role in the domestic economy by creating small businesses and jobs, often taking advantage of the journey home to invest in property and sell vehicles and other objects to their relatives.
Mohamed was stuck in huge queues at the Tangier border post on 10 August this year.
The national authorities set up a number of transit centres at border posts in an almost military fashion to cope with the flood of people.
It is organised by an army officer, Colonel Abdallah Alaoui, and 294 staff from the army's social services department.
One of the most popular routes is from Algeciras (Spain) to Tangier, because administrative formalities are done on board, easing traffic congestion.
The colonel's crew are able to receive 24 ships a day in Tangier, with 24,600 people and 6,000 vehicles.
Service stations have been built along the major routes, which are choked with cars and lorries laden with goods and people.
The transit operation has cost the Moroccan Government close to $1.5m in the past three years - but the authorities are keen to welcome MREs and their money.
Banks and other financial institutions are also developing new business strategies to win a share of the lucrative traffic in remittance payments.
The number of "expatriates" has multiplied eight-fold since 1968, but a problem is emerging.
Many of the younger, second-generation Moroccans do not share their parents' willingness to send money back "home".
They prefer to invest in the European countries where they have been born and grown up.
This is forcing national authorities, which have done well out of the remittance traffic to re-assess their marketing strategies.
For Mohamed though, he still regards El Borj as home - although like most of us he wishes the holidays were a little longer.