After more than two years closed, the land borders between Morocco and the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla reopened in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Hundreds of people have witnessed and celebrated this reopening which, in the case of Ceuta and its Tarajal crossing, has seen 827 people and 171 vehicles enter Spanish territory, while in the opposite direction 318 people and 134 cars have travelled, as reported by the Government Delegation in a statement to the media.
It is expected that these numbers of people crossing the border will continue to increase over the next few days and that the usual traffic will gradually recover. Some 20,000 people and 3,000 vehicles crossed the border between Spain and Morocco every day before the border crossing was closed on 13 March 2020 due to the health crisis.
The Government delegate in Ceuta, Salvadora Mateos, together with the Security Forces and Corps in Ceuta have checked the state of the Spanish side of the border minutes before the opening. In turn, the National Police has implemented a control, as reported by its senior chief in the city, reinforcing with the Clandestine Immigration
Response Brigade (BRIC) and the Police Intervention Unit to ensure an "exhaustive" review of the documents of people entering or leaving Ceuta.
In addition, both Morocco and Spain have demanded that anyone wishing to cross the border must have a certificate of full vaccination against COVID-19, a negative test for the same disease or a certificate of cure. This is intended to guarantee the health measures that both countries agreed on when the border was reopened.
However, according to the planning organised by the two neighbouring countries, this is only the first phase of the reopening, in which only nationals or residents of the European Union or with a visa for free movement through Schengen territory will be allowed to cross. Cross-border workers "legally recognised as such" will have to wait two weeks to cross the Tarajal and Beni Enzar crossing points on 31 May, in what is considered the second phase of the border reopening. According to the data handled by the Ceuta authorities, there are 2,500 workers in this category, although only 141 have the proper documentation.
This planning that the Spanish and Moroccan authorities agreed on aims for a "gradual and orderly opening", as the Minister of the Interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, announced a few days earlier. The mayor of Melilla, Juan José Castro, has also endorsed this roadmap "so that this does not become a chaotic situation as it was before", he said on the same night of the reopening when he went to the border.
This reopening of the borders comes after Spain and Morocco resumed diplomatic relations following the support of the Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, for the plan for Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, sealed in the meeting with Mohamed VI. During these months, the reopening of the maritime border has already been agreed and preparations have been finalised to resume Operation Crossing the Strait (OPE).
Issues such as reopening customs in Melilla and opening one in Ceuta to regulate the transit of goods and combat smuggling, something that the Alaouite kingdom is also counting on, are still pending. Possible legal modifications are also expected to require visas as a condition for access, which would put an end to the exceptions with neighbouring provinces.