Morocco: Collecting demographic and socio-economic data on refugees through surveys

Drafted in collaboration with Morocco’s High Commission for Planning.


Once considered a country of emigration, Morocco has gradually become a country of transit and settlement. Due to its geographical location, the effects of its “African policy” and other laws, Morocco has emerged as a country of stay for an increasing number of migrants, mainly from sub-Saharan African countries.

Aware of the policy-relevance of collecting data on the demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of migrants and refugees, the High Commission for Planning (HCP) conducted two migration surveys in 2018 and 2021 as part of the MED-HIMS regional programme[1]. In addition, in the context of the global pandemic, the HCP in collaboration with UNHCR implemented a survey to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on refugees in 2020. Both examples demonstrate Morocco’s commitment to producing policy-relevant official statistics on refugees and related populations.


The 2021 forced migration survey[2]

The 2021 forced migration survey is a nationally representative survey, covering many dimensions of forced migration, including migrants in an irregular administrative situation, regularized migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. The survey employed a sample of 3000 migrants, including 2200 regular or irregular migrants and 800 refugees or asylum seekers.

The 2021 survey was the second implementation phase of the MED-HIMS program in Morocco. It built upon the first phase from 2018 and focused on Moroccans living abroad and returning migrants. The survey was also conducted in Egypt (2013), Jordan (2014) and Tunisia (2020-2021) with comparable data produced.

COVID-19 impact survey[3]

In June 2020, the HCP, in partnership with UNHCR, conducted a survey to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economic, social and psychological situation of refugees in Morocco. The survey collected information on the impact of isolation, refugees’ access to health services, education and the labor market in the context of the pandemic. In addition, the initiative sought to compare the situation of refugees with that of the national population based on data collected through another survey conducted in collaboration with the World Bank.

The survey found that 9 out of 10 employed refugee household heads had stopped working during confinement. In other areas, 79.1% of refugee households reported that their children attended school virtually and almost all refugees (95.5%) felt that basic food items were available during confinement.

To complement this study and deepen the analysis, a similar survey is planned for 2022 which will enable trends analysis.

The use of the international recommendations

Efforts aimed to include refugees in Morocco’s national statistical system have integrated the International Recommendations on Refugee Statistics (IRRS). From a methodological perspective, the definitions of the target population used are aligned with the IRRS and the Refugee Convention. In addition, the recommendations have provided operational guidance to facilitate the development of the questionnaires and analysis of the data. 

In addition, the IRRS’ emphasis on the role of national statistical systems and national statistical offices to improve the quality of official statistics on refugees helped establish HCP’s engagement on this important topic.


The surveys conducted in Morocco are interesting examples of the production of socio-economic statistics on refugees. They have helped to determine the level of integration of these vulnerable populations into Moroccan society, as the situation of refugees can be compared to that of the general population and thus provide a solid evidence base for policy design and implementation.


“In Morocco, there is a lot of administrative data on migrants and refugees available. The problem is that they are not harmonized and do not comply with all the fundamental principles of official statistics. We have agreed with all national departments and we are working with international organizations to build our capacity with the aim of improving these statistics, informed by international standards on refugee statistics.”

Mr. Mohamed Mghari

Regional Director of Planning, High Commission of Planning, Morocco


Beyond this survey work, the HCP launched in 2021 an activity to harmonize administrative statistics on international migration in general and labor migration in particular, in partnership with the International Labor Office (ILO) and relevant national institutions. This activity aims to lay the groundwork for an Integrated and Harmonized Information System on International Migration in Morocco, including on refugees, through the improvement and harmonization of tools for collecting, producing, and analyzing data in accordance with international standards, with a particular focus on the recommendations of the various International Conferences on Labor Statistics (CIST) and international recommendations relating to statistics on refugees. This large-scale investment is in its early stages but has the potential to transform the breadth and depth of analysis possible on the situation of refugees and migrants in the country.