17 May 2022, 11:19

Spain, Morocco reopen land borders after two-year closure

FNIDEQ, Morocco, May 17, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - Morocco and Spain have reopened the

land borders between the north African country and the Spanish enclaves of
Ceuta and Melilla, two years after they were shut due to Covid restrictions
and a major diplomatic row.

The enclaves on the Mediterranean coast in northern Morocco have the European
Union's only land borders with Africa.

The gates opened shortly after 11:00 pm local time (2200 GMT) on Monday
night, letting dozens of cars and queues of pedestrians pass in both

At the Fnideq border post, smiles lit up the faces of the travellers crossing
to see their families on the Moroccan side.

"I was stuck for two years in Ceuta, I'm very happy to be back home," said

"I am happy that Morocco and Spain have restored their relations, it allows
us to see our families," said one man in his sixties.

The reopening of the borders of the two enclaves initially remains limited to
residents of Europe's open-borders Schengen area and their family members.

It will be expanded to cross-border workers after May 31.

The local economies on both sides of the borders depend on the crossing of
people and goods.

The Ceuta and Melilla crossings were closed during the first wave of the
coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.

The borders became the focus of a major dispute last year, when Madrid
allowed the leader of a Western Saharan independence movement to be treated
for Covid-19 in a Spanish hospital.

Ten thousand migrants surged across the Moroccan border into Ceuta as local
border forces looked the other way, a move widely seen as a punitive gesture
by Rabat.

In March this year, Spain moved to end the diplomatic crisis with Morocco by
changing its decades-long stance of neutrality and backing the kingdom's
autonomy plan for the Western Sahara, which Rabat insists must remain under
its sovereignty.

Maritime travel between the two countries resumed on April 12.

Following their reconciliation, Morocco and Spain have committed to
strengthening cooperation on irregular migration.

Morocco, which is one of Spain's major trade partners, plays a significant
role in controlling flows of migrants towards Europe.



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