Spain hopes to boost the economy of of its two occupied areas in Morocco - Sebta (Ceuta) and Melilla - by allowing Moroccans visa-free access. The proposal will be studied and (hopefully) applied in principle in a few months
Talks between the Spanish and Moroccan governments on the abolition of visas for entry to Sebta began several months ago. Morocco has been studying a Spanish proposal on access to the territory for all Moroccans without needing of a Schengen visa.
This proposal came as no surprise to the Moroccan authorities, since several Spanish officials, including the governor of Ceuta, have been pushing for the central government in Madrid to take an initiative in this direction. The call from officials became more insistent in view of the sluggish economy in Sebta and Melilla, following the financial crisis which has hit Spain.
The building by Morocco of the Mediterranean port of Tangiers has also contributed to lower economic activity in the two cities, despite their status as tax-free markets.
Morocco, after careful consideration, accepted the Spanish proposal and it only remains for Morocco to study all its aspects, particularly on the security front, which is considered essential due to the radicalisation of a number of inhabitants from these two occupied areas. There is also the issue of hundreds of African migrants who await the opportunity to reach the two cities that are part of the European Union. Free movement of people across the border post of Tarajal will be confirmed when the new government emerges after the elections of 7 October.
|"mule women" of Melilla - Photo: Fernando Del Berro|
Another pressing issue is the thousands of small smugglers and "mule women" who continue to operate in both cities. This commerce takes place daily at Barrio Chino - a border crossing from Melilla to Morocco for pedestrians only. As long as a porteadora can physically carry her load, it is classed as personal luggage, so Morocco lets it in duty-free. The women have the right to visit Melilla because they live in the Moroccan province of Nador. But they are not allowed to reside in the Spanish territory.
Access in future will be granted only to holders of identity cards indicating residence in the Tetouan region. At the same time there is talk of opening another crossing point at Tarajal 2 to reduce the pressure on the first.