Filmmaker: Hossam Shahadat
Moroccans who have spent all their working lives in France and the Netherlands are now facing discrimination against their pensions in what has been criticised as a form of ‘retirement apartheid’.
I live alone in a narrow room, like a prison. My life here in France is more like hell, in every sense of the word.
Retired French and Italians can live anywhere in Europe without it affecting their domestic pension entitlements; but North Africans who have lived and worked in France for more than 40 years are denied the same rights.
Instead they face a stark choice: return to their home countries and lose large slices of their pension and face medical bills they can’t afford; or remain in, say, France with their full pensions but away from their families.
“I’m sick,” says 75-year-old Mohamed Air Wakrim who has lived in France for 45 years. “If I stay in Morocco for more than six months, they’ll find out and take away my rights.”
Contrast this with the treatment of Europeans and you have what some people have called “retirement apartheid”.
“In Tunisia, I only have to pay four or five percent tax,” says Mauro Sansovini, an Italian pensioner. “In Italy, the tax rate on my pension income is between 40 and 45 percent.”
Salim Fkire, the president of CAP SUD MRE, a campaign group of Moroccans residing abroad, sums up the situation: “Mohamed and Patrick both worked in the same factory, got the same pension and paid the same taxes. Today, Patrick has the right to live permanently in Agadir… But Mohamed can’t stay in his home town for more than six months. After that he’ll have to return to France or else he’ll lose his social rights.”
There are also problems for North Africans in the Netherlands. The Dutch government tried to cut benefits to retired Moroccans by 40 percent but was forced to backtrack. So instead they introduced checks on property and began spying on Moroccans and their assets in Morocco through their embassy in Rabat, so they could deduct tax from Moroccan pensioners living in Holland.
This has led to open protests highlighting the plight of the North Africans, who have become known as ‘The Chibanis’, Moroccan Arabic dialect for ‘older people’.
In The Retirement Trap, we look at the struggle of Moroccans to redress pension injustice and escape the retirement trap they find themselves in.