The factors that influence the formation of transit states' policies towards irregular migration have been insufficiently analysed. The case study in this article therefore investigates why and how Morocco, at the interface of Euro-African migration flows, created a policy towards irregular migration at the beginning of the twenty-first century. This article shows that Morocco's policy, rather than being a by-product of European migration policies, was the authorities' strategic response to the country's complex geopolitical environment that aimed at restoring Morocco's pivotal role in the region via irregular migration control. By retracing the three-phase inverted agenda-setting process that occurred between 2000 and 2007, this article shows why and how irregular (transit) migration was set on Morocco's political agenda, transformed into a new area of public intervention and progressively framed as a national public problem.

Policy Implications
  • Morocco's irregular migration policy, unlike that of receiving states, is less guided by national-electoral than by geopolitical considerations. Migratory flows considerably impact Morocco's regional negotiation capital; but while strengthening relations with Europe remains a top priority, Morocco's cooperation with African states is increasingly important.
  • Framing irregular migration as an exterior threat by stigmatizing sub-Saharan transit migration and concealing irregular national emigration is crucial for Moroccan authorities to assure popular adherence to restrictive policies.
  • Civil society activism on migration is an important democratization vector in Morocco. However, selective state responses create a labour division between a state-run border-control and civil society-run integration measures.