Hundreds of Moroccans took to the streets of Rabat on Monday to protest at a controversial health ministry decision that requires all new workers to obtain a vaccination certificate in order to leave the country.
The protest was among demonstrations around the country that were organisers’ intended to follow in the footsteps of the widespread demonstrations in Turkey and Belgium last week against a similar vaccination law passed by the Belgian parliament.
The Moroccan protest also came in a week when hundreds of eastern Europeans are in Morocco to take part in the summer carnival, and the Moroccan authorities have ordered all of the employees to leave the country before 22 June.
Protesters have denounced the manner in which the health ministry conveyed the news to the workers, with some even stating that the ministry sent SMS texts while hundreds of people lined up in the streets to vote on whether to change the health law.
According to the protesters, when the health minister Amine Lakhmari announced the decision to text alerts to all workers, a large crowd of people gathered outside his office, clashing with riot police who later broke up the demonstration.
“The government announced this matter this way,” said Zawad Adlashi, one of the protest organisers. “That it wanted to reach everyone and change them.”
According to the protest organisers, there are a maximum of 350,000 workers in Morocco’s tourism sector that must obtain the hepatitis B vaccination certificate in order to be re-entry. The boycott began two days after the health ministry sent a text message to workers informing them of the decision.
It is unclear if all the workers have been vaccinated. In 2017, the World Health Organisation recommended that governments in the north-east of Morocco monitor the vaccination process to determine whether more people are being protected from hepatitis B.
The health ministry could not be reached for comment.
Earlier this year, national security forces arrested at least 38 members of the banned Islamic Justice and Development party in the Casablanca suburbs for having hosted a reception where activists tried to hold discussions about Sharia law.
However, since early March, the protests have gone largely unnoticed and lack the pyschological, and in the case of the medical workers, educational, or informational, punch of similar events taking place in Turkey and Belgium.
Opposition politicians accused the government of using the “health” pretext for closing down public services, especially in regions with large Muslim communities.
Last week, Morocco’s public media broadcast the vaccination reminder from Lakhmari as a public service announcement, with the television channels of Morocco’s two largest private television stations promising to place up to five of them on one of their channels and give away a tablet with one of the vaccinations as part of their promotion.