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Spain, Morocco reopen borders for 1st time since pandemic

Land borders separating Spain’s African enclaves from Morocco were closed since March 2020

Alyssa McMurtry   | 17.05.2022
Spain, Morocco reopen borders for 1st time since pandemic

OVIEDO, Spain

The land borders separating Spain’s two African enclaves from Morocco reopened for the first time in 26 months on Tuesday.

The border crossing of El Tarajal was festive at the time the border opened around midnight.

According to Spanish daily El Pais, people applauded and sang after the long-awaited restoration of mobility. Hundreds of people crossed the border overnight.

The Spanish city of Ceuta is just over 7 square miles (18 square kilometers), while Melilla is not even 5 square miles.

They both represent the only EU land borders with an African nation.

Many people in the area split their lives between Spain and Morocco. Before the beginning of the pandemic, there were an estimated 5,000 cross-border workers.

But the borders have not returned to what they once were. For now, only those with legal permission to enter the Schengen area can enter Spain.

On May 31, cross-border workers will be allowed in, while a working group will continue determining the next groups of people or merchandise that will be allowed to cross the borders.

The border was first closed in March 2020 due to the pandemic, but Morocco kept it closed to pressure Spain to change its position on the independence of Western Sahara.

It was exactly one year ago that Ceuta was the scene of a fierce political clash between Spain and Morocco.

After Spain was caught treating the leader of the Western Sahara Polisario Front, an enemy of Morocco, for COVID-19, Moroccan guards allowed more than 10,000 migrants to flow into Ceuta on May 17, 2021.

But that conflict has long subsided. Madrid has shifted and now backs Rabat’s view that Western Sahara should be an autonomous region within Morocco.

With the reopening of the borders, Spain has reinforced police presence in its African enclaves.

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