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Morocco, Spain reopen their land borders after a two-year closure

May 17, 2022 at 1:31 pm

A man stands by a sign reading “Spain” near the Spanish border with Morocco in Ceuta on March 13, 2020. [JORGE GUERRERO/AFP via Getty Images]

At midnight today, Morocco and Spain reopened their land borders in the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, after they were closed for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the diplomatic crisis in relations between the two countries.

Agence France-Presse said that the iron gates of the border crossing between Ceuta and Fnideq opened at about 22:00 GMT, and dozens of cars crossed them towards the Spanish side.

It reported that at the moment, only European or Moroccan travellers with a Schengen visa can travel by land to the two Spanish enclaves, while Moroccan citizens legally working in them, who could not work since the borders closed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, will be able to cross again to the Spanish enclaves from 31 May.

The reopening of the crossings is part of a roadmap to normalise relations between Rabat and Madrid, which was announced in early April, when Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez visited Rabat.

The road map has so far included the resumption of maritime traffic, cooperation in combating irregular migration, in addition to the processing of Moroccans residing in Europe at the two countries’ ports during the upcoming summer vacation.

READ: Migrants drown off coast of Western Sahara

The border crossings with Ceuta and Melilla were closed two years ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, they remained closed after that, in the context of a severe diplomatic crisis between Rabat and Madrid.

However, the two parties reached a reconciliation agreement thanks to Madrid changing its position on the Western Sahara conflict in favour of Rabat in mid-March, with its support for the autonomy project proposed by Morocco to resolve this conflict.

This reconciliation ended a severe crisis that erupted due to Madrid hosting the leader of the Polisario Front, which calls for the independence of Western Sahara, Brahim Ghali, for treatment.

The crisis worsened at that time with the influx of about 10,000 immigrants, most of them Moroccans, including many minors, into the Ceuta enclave, taking advantage of Morocco relaxing its border controls.