MMadrid and Rabat have decided to reopen the border crossings between northern Morocco and the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on May 17, which have been closed for more than two years, the Spanish Interior Minister announced on Thursday.
This process will be done gradually and will initially only concern nationals of countries in the Schengen area, the minister continued. This reopening will then be extended “from May 31” to “all cross-border workers”, that is to say Moroccan nationals who work in these two cities, he continued.
The borders of Ceuta and Melilla with Morocco had been closed during the first wave of the covid pandemic, in the spring of 2020, then kept closed the following year due to a serious diplomatic crisis between Madrid and Rabat.
The deal to reopen them comes after Madrid ended a nearly year-long diplomatic crisis with Rabat on March 18 by publicly backing Morocco’s autonomy plan for Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony controlled by Morocco. but for which the Sahrawi separatists of the Polisario Front, supported by Algeria, claim self-determination.
The quarrel between Rabat and Madrid had been caused by the reception in Spain of the leader of the Polisario, Brahim Ghali, taken care of in a Spanish hospital in April 2021 to be treated there for covid. It had led to the arrival in Ceuta in May 2021 of more than 10,000 migrants in 24 hours, thanks to a relaxation of border controls on the Moroccan side.