DFG Funding: 50 Years of Moroccan Immigration to Germany


"Following the signing of the recrutiment agreement on May 21, 1963, about 170000 Moroccans came to Germany. To date, there is not much research on this group. Now,  on time for the 50th anniversary of the agreement, we can present the first results of our research on Moroccan immigrants," explained Professor Carmella Pfaffenbach from the Teaching and Research Area of Cultural Geography at RWTH Aachen. Over a two-year period, the German Research Foundation supported the research project with 90000 euros. The project is entitled "The Influence of the image of Islam in Germany on the organization of everyday life and the local identity formation of Muslim Arabs in North Rhine-Westphalia."


Carmella Pfaffenbach und Maike Didero, research assistant at the Teaching and Research Area of Cultural Geography at RWTH Aachen, will present their research results at the conference “50 Years of Moroccan Immigration to German – Immigrants as Builders of Bridges between Worlds,” held on June 26, 2013, in Berlin.

Studies on Immigration

According to Maike Didero, “the remarkable thing about immigrants from Morocco is their extreme diversity and heterogeneity.” While the first immigrants mostly came from the poor, rural regions in the north-east of Morocco, today people from all over Morocco and with all levels of education live in Germany. Some have doctoral degrees, others have almost no education. As Didero explains, “in our project, we want to find out about the influence of educational level and social position on the integration process and on current and future choices of locations to live and work.”

In-Depth Interviews

Didero conducted 40 in-depth interviews with people with Moroccan origins living in the Aachen, Cologne and Bonn regions. Unlike in quantitative studies, here the participants had the chance to tell their life story in a two-hour interview, providing detailed information on their job choice and their decisions on where to live in Germany.

What is not widely known is that until the ban on recruitment in 1973, also many Moroccan women came to Germany to work. While many men found work in the NRW and Hessian car and steel industries, in mining and in construction, the mostly young, unmarried women found jobs at the Aachen confectionery companies, for example.

Even though the men typically took very hard jobs that put their health at risk, they tended to be rather pleased with their jobs: the regulated working conditions and a regular income were often more than they could expect at home. And today they feel as much at home in their new home cities as they do in their home villages in Morocco. Now retired, some of them went back to Morocco, others stayed. Most of them travel back and forth between Germany and Morocco, between friends and family in both countries.

Moroccan Students and Academics

In the eighties and nineties of the last century, many migrant workers were joined by their spouses and children. Since 1989, when the German-Moroccan Cultural Convention came into effect, Moroccans also have been coming to Germany for educational purposes.

By contrast with the largely uneducated migrant workers, those who come to Germany to take up studies have a Moroccan university entrance qualification, and many of them already speak two or three languages when they arrive.

The first student migrants, however, often had to take up vocational training, as the requirements of the German university systems turned out to be too high for them. Later student migrants came better prepared: many of them took up jobs as engineers, doctors, or social scientists. Working as professionals, they feel very happy in their North Rhine-Westphalian home cities.

On the other hand, immigrants from Morocco are often identified as Muslims, and they are faced with religious prejudice and discrimination. Experiences of discrimination are especially hard to take for the German-born children of Moroccan immigrants: their home is the German locality in which they were born and raised. For them, it is important to be accepted: “Regardless of who you are, regardless of where you came from – just as a human being.”