Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

Ceuta and Melilla border gates to be raised again

Written by Frédéric Dubessy on Tuesday, May 17th 2022 à 15:40 | Read 205 times

Very soon, after two years of closure, the crossing will be allowed again at the border posts of Ceuta and Melilla, the two Spanish enclaves in Morocco.

MOROCCO / SPAIN. The announcement, on Wednesday 11 May 2022, of the reopening of the border crossings of the Spanish enclaves in Morocco of Ceuta (Sebta for Moroccans) and Melilla constitutes a new fruit of the détente between the two countries.

Since the reversal of Spain, on 18 March 2022, affirming its support for the Moroccan autonomy plan for Western Sahara and the official end, at the beginning of April 2022, of a diplomatic crisis that had lasted for nearly a year, Madrid and Rabat have multiplied the signs of rapprochement. The reactivation of the border crossings is a direct response to one of the points set out in the new roadmap between Spain and Morocco. Initialled on 7 April 2022, it provides for "the fluid movement of people and goods between the two countries".

The reopening is planned "in the next few days", indicated José Manuel Albares on the sidelines of a meeting of the coalition against the Islamic State in Marrakech. The Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs said that "the decision has been taken, but there are still practical aspects" to be settled. A few hours later, in Madrid, his Interior colleague, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, revealed the date chosen: Tuesday 17 May 2022 at 00:00. But everything will be done in stages, as the minister stressed. Initially, nationals and residents of countries in the Schengen area*, as well as all those authorised to travel in this area, will be able to cross the barriers. It will be necessary to wait until 31 May 2022 for legally recognised "cross-border workers", i.e. mainly Moroccan nationals, as well as people benefiting from specific visas for Ceuta and Melilla, to finally regain this right of passage.

In the opposite direction, Spain-Morocco, the Moroccan authorities have yet to announce their conditions. Spanish police forces were reinforced in both enclaves before the decision was implemented.

Border crossings closed for two years

These border crossings, the only land entry points to the European Union from the African continent, had been closed for two years by Morocco. The first reason given in spring 2020 was the retrovirus health crisis. However, once the pandemic was somewhat resolved, the barriers remained closed because of the feud between the two kingdoms when the leader of the Polisario Front (Sahrawi independence fighters), Brahim Ghali, was hospitalised in Spain in April 2021 precisely for Covid-19.

The much more relaxed controls on the Moroccan side had allowed, in twenty-four hours, more than 10 000 migrants, mainly from sub-Saharan countries, to enter Ceuta in May 2021.

Ceuta and Melilla were ranked first and fourth respectively in the latest Eurosat ranking of European regions most affected by youth unemployment, published in early May 2022. 56% for the former and 41.9% for the latter. In the same study, Ceuta also takes the lead with the highest unemployment rate (all age categories combined) of all the regions of the EU Member States with a rate of 26.6% (19.8% for Melilla) for a European average of 7% in 2021.

Read also our survey "Ceuta and Melilla, barometers of the relations between Morocco and Spain "

* Implemented in 1995, the Schengen agreements allow the free movement of people in the European Union. They have been signed by 26 countries: 22 of the 27 current EU Member States (excluding Cyprus, Ireland, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania). The other countries applying the Schengen Treaty conventions are Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican, although not part of the Schengen area, apply its clause on the abolition of identity checks at internal borders. The nationals of certain territories attached to Schengen countries (mainly islands far from Europe) must however request a specific visa from the country on which they depend to benefit from the conditions of the Schengen area.

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