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Morocco maintains that the geography of the Ceuta and Melilla crossings does not allow customs to be set up

Moroccan authorities justify the decision not to open commercial customs in the autonomous cities
Aduanas Marruecos

REUTERS/JESÚS BLASCO  -   A general view shows the border between Morocco and Spain's North African enclave of Melilla in Beni Enzar, Morocco

The director general of the Moroccan Customs Administration, Nabil Lajdar, stated that "the geographical conditions" of the Ceuta and Melilla crossings do not allow customs infrastructures to be installed there.

"In order to set up commercial operations, infrastructure has to be built. At present, not even the geographical conditions allow it", Lajdar stated in an interview with the Moroccan weekly TelQuel, when asked whether Morocco is going to install customs infrastructures for commercial operations at the two crossing points with the Spanish cities in North Africa.

The Moroccan official indicates that "the Ceuta and Melilla crossings", reopened on 17 May after two years closed due to the pandemic and the diplomatic crisis between Spain and Morocco, are only "small corridors" and considers that customs control needs more space to function.

"We need dozens of hectares to build visiting and control areas," he says, adding that "the current configuration of Bab Sebta (the Tarajal pass in Ceuta) does not allow it". "We do not have the necessary surface area to envisage such a project," he insists.

The reopening of the commercial customs office that existed in Melilla and the opening of a new one in Ceuta is one of the issues under negotiation between Spain, which wishes to do so, and Morocco once their diplomatic crisis has been overcome. 

The Spanish Foreign Minister, José Manuel Albares, spoke of "customs" in the plural when he announced in Marrakesh the imminent reopening of these crossings. 

Regarding the smuggling of goods from Spanish cities to Morocco that took place years ago, often behind the backs of the so-called 'porteadoras', Lajdar said in the interview that it 'belongs to the past' and that Morocco's intention is to maintain trade with Spain 'according to the rules'.