Operation Crossing the Strait begins on Wednesday 15 June. This is the supervision of the massive traffic of travellers heading from Europe to the Maghreb for their holidays. The Spanish and Moroccan governments are once again preparing this important migratory operation after two years without holding it due to the pandemic and the crisis in diplomatic relations.
The first day of the operation has been carried out without major influxes, according to the Spanish authorities, who expect the greatest volume of traffic for the second week of July. Manuel Sánchez Alcázar, head of the Protection Department of the Port Authority of the Bay of Algeciras, through which nearly 70% of travellers pass, indicated, in statements reported by Europa Sur, that "The influx of vehicles and passengers is low. It is normal because it is the beginning of the operation. We expect very quiet days until then between the end of the month and the second weekend of July when the Fiesta del Cordero (9 July) is celebrated and that will surely increase the number of people arriving at the facilities of Algeciras and Tarifa. Now there is total normality and a lot of tranquillity".
In addition to the ports of Algeciras and Tarifa, ships will leave for Morocco from Motril, Almeria and Campo de Gibraltar.
According to the organisation of the OPE, it is expected that this year, 2022, there will be a 10% increase in the number of travellers crossing the strait through Spain to reach Morocco. This figure represents around 300,000 more travellers compared to the last time the OPE was held. In 2019, almost 3.3 million people of North African origin crossed Spain to spend their holidays in their countries of origin.
To ensure that everything runs as smoothly as possible, the Ministry of the Interior has prepared a police operation with more than 16,000 National Police and Civil Guard officers, as well as 1,768 security cameras installed along the route. In addition to these law enforcement officers, another 6,000 professionals from the Red Cross and various ministries will be on hand.
At sea, eight shipping companies will be responsible for transporting the vehicles from the mainland to the neighbouring continent. In total, the OPE has been equipped with 33 transport vessels to ensure the smooth running of the operation. It should be remembered that this year, only those with closed tickets, purchased in advance, will be allowed to travel, which means less flexibility than in previous years. Associations such as the Friends of the Moroccan People have publicly requested that this measure be eliminated, a demand that has not yet been met by the port authorities or by the shipping companies, which also require a valid COVID passport or a PCR test of no more than 72 hours old.
The authorities have not confirmed this, but according to Europa Sur, during the busiest days of July, additional measures are planned to allow the interchangeability of tickets in order to speed up border crossings.
The need for visas to cross the borders of Ceuta and Melilla will also remain in force until at least 15 July, as published in the Official State Gazette (BOE).
The Spanish authorities have made available to travellers god large rest areas in the province of Cadiz, as well as 7 information points. They amount to 7,500 square metres of quays, 508,000 square metres of rest and parking areas and 32 maritime berths.
In addition, there are the rest areas available on the national road network, which in pre-pandemic times received a considerable amount of revenue at this time of year thanks to the volume of traffic.
The Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs has reinforced its consular network in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain to help its nationals with the formalities required to spend the summer in the Maghreb.