Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

Spain renews order to close Ceuta and Melilla borders

Written by Frédéric Dubessy on Thursday, November 4th 2021 à 09:35 | Read 1057 times

The border between Morocco and Ceuta (as with Melilla) remains closed (photo: DR)
The border between Morocco and Ceuta (as with Melilla) remains closed (photo: DR)
SPAIN / MOROCCO. An order of the Spanish Ministry of the Interior, published on Tuesday 2 November 2021 in the Official Gazette (BOE), extends the closure of the borders between Morocco and Ceuta (Sebta) and Melilla (Mlilya or Mlilt) for another month, until 30 November 2021 at midnight. The Spanish authorities do not rule out a further extension at the end of this period.

Madrid points to the epidemic situation of Covid-19 in the Cherifian Kingdom to justify this decision. Morocco, which is not on the Spanish list of countries to which travel is authorised, has just extended the state of health emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic to 30 November 2021 on Friday 29 October.

Since 13 March 2020, due to the state of emergency decreed in Spain with house arrest, and since an order of 17 July 2021 modifying (as of 22 July 2021 at 00:00) the criteria for the application of a temporary restriction on non-essential travel from third countries to the European Union and the Schengen countries due to the health crisis (this is the one that has just been extended), it is no longer possible to enter these two Spanish enclaves from Morocco.

The Moroccan authorities only allow Spanish citizens and those from other EU countries who are stranded on its territory to cross the borders of Tarajal (Ceuta) and Beni Enzar (Melilla).

Cross-border workers blocked in Ceuta

The Spanish association APDHA denounces the fate of Moroccan border workers (photo: APDHA)
The Spanish association APDHA denounces the fate of Moroccan border workers (photo: APDHA)
The two autonomous cities (Ciudad autonoma), with 87,000 and 80,000 inhabitants respectively, are therefore more isolated than ever. The situation is becoming increasingly difficult for Moroccan cross-border workers stuck in these enclaves.

"Some of them have been working daily in Ceuta for almost twenty years, without being recognised any rights, and after the closure of the border, they have not been able to leave the autonomous city or see their relatives for more than a year and a half," criticised the Andalusian Human Rights Association (Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos Andalucía - APDHA). Concerned about the fate of border workers, this Seville-based NGO published a manifesto on its website at the end of October 2021 to denounce to the Spanish state and local authorities this lack of work and residence permits despite their contributions to the city's economy.
The text with the collected signatures will be delivered to the Spanish Ministry of Interior, the Government Delegation in Ceuta and the Spanish Ombudsman.

On 1 November 2021, around fifty Moroccan workers came to demonstrate in front of the government delegation in Ceuta to ask to leave the city. According to Amin Souissi, "Ceuta is becoming a waiting room for immigration from the north of Morocco and these people are treated cruelly in terms of work and administration." The APDHA representative denounced the fact that they "find themselves without any kind of document, without a cross-border card, without social security rights, while they have been paying social security contributions for years, as well as their taxes.
On 18 October 2021, Amin Souissi had already accompanied a delegation of cross-border workers who had come to voice their demands in front of the same building. "The border is one thing, but the rights that these people have acquired and to which they are entitled must be respected," he said then. Today, he says that what worries these Moroccans most is not when they will be able to leave Ceuta to join Morocco and see their families. They fear, "that when they return, they will be prevented (from entering), because that is where they have a job.

Work is in progress at the Ceuta border. They are being carried out as part of a tightening of access conditions to better control entry, when the crossing can be reopened. "We want the border to be completely renovated before it reopens," Salvadora Mateos said in mid-October 2021. The government delegate of this autonomous city was keen to point out that Moroccan cross-border workers with work contracts will be the first to be able to cross the border again. Her counterpart in Melilla, Sabrina Moh, mentioned at the same time the possibility of opening the border crossings in a "gradual way".

Read our survey : Ceuta and Melilla, barometers of relations between Morocco and Spain

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