SHARE
COPY LINK

MOROCCO

Every summer, Spain hosts annual exodus to north Africa

It's the largest annual human migration in Europe: millions of people from France, Belgium and Italy cross Spain every summer to spend their holidays with family in north Africa.

Every summer, Spain hosts annual exodus to north Africa
Photos by Jorge Guerrero / AFP

This year, close to three million are expected to make the trip there and back through 16 ports in Spain, Morocco and Algeria in an exodus that presents a huge logistical challenge.

In 2016, Spain's civil protection agency registered 2.8 million passengers crossing the country, and it expects even more to make the trip this year.   

As a result, some 13,000 police officers have been mobilised on the Spanish side, along with translators and Red Cross volunteers.   

Said Arrhamani, who lives in France's northeastern Ardennes region, knows the route off by heart, having done it since he was a kid when his family would spend their summer holidays in Rabat in Morocco.

It's now his turn to drive his four young children more than 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) down to the port of Algeciras in Spain's south, through which more than half of those crossing the country transit.

“Thirty years ago, this was pretty unhealthy,” says the 36-year-old in the port where a hectic atmosphere reigns, with cars, trucks and buses filling all available parking spaces, waiting to board ferries.

“We could wait two days before boarding, and there were traffic jams that reached the outskirts of Algeciras.

“Now there are agents who speak to us in French and guide us until the end.”    

As drivers approach southern Spain, road signs also appear in Arabic giving directions to the ports.

Longer but cheaper

At the Algeciras port, most cars — some modest, others expensive — are filled with clothes, food, nappies and blankets.   

While some holidaymakers eat and chat, others sleep inside their car or lie down on carpets in the shade, and still more smoke hookah pipes.    

Children play football nearby.  

“We left Nice (in southeastern France) yesterday at nine at night, and we arrived this afternoon,” says Karima Bel Hafout, travelling to Rabat via Tangier with her husband and two children.

“It's close to 2,000 kilometres, but we save 2,700 euros ($3,200) compared to taking the plane.”

Others have taken the bus, and arrive even more tired.  

“I've done my back in trying to sleep,” says Hamid Hafid, with a mix of resignation and humour, having come from Agen in southern France.  

“It's hard and long,” adds his friend Said Khadrouf, drinking from his water bottle.

High security

After spending time back home, they will all go back north again in August and the first half of September under the watchful eye of Spanish security agents.

To avoid illegal immigration and fearing extremist attacks, agents from 16 other European countries have been mobilised to work with officers in Spain.  

Last year, they checked 1.6 million passengers, Spanish police said.  

Manuel Alcazar, the port's chief of protection, says all this activity takes its toll on the port, one of the biggest in Europe.  

Sitting in front of a high-definition screen in his office, where he examines the footage of close to 700 security cameras, he explains that on peak days, authorities give priority to passengers.

This, however, means that the loading of trucks carrying merchandise goes slower.

And this is an important part of the activity of a port which deals with merchandise from Spanish textiles group Inditex, spare parts for car-maker Renault, which has a factory in Tangier, agricultural products and seafood.  

But for shipping companies, the annual exodus is good for business, particularly for those who operate in the Strait of Gibraltar — they make 40 percent of their annual turnover between mid-June and mid-September.

The mass migration wave also creates temporary jobs in Algeciras, a city of 120,000, where 28,000 direct and indirect posts depend on the port.  

Among these are more than 200 young people wearing fluorescent yellow shirts who help direct the traffic and count the vehicles with the help of smartphones.

Isabel Corrales, about to start her last year of studying administration and finance at university, is one such temporary worker.  

She's been doing this every summer for five years, and the money earned — close to €1,000 — helps her finance her studies.  

“This money is very welcome,” she says with a large smile.

By Alvaro Villalobos / AFP

HEALTH

LISTED: The 14 sun creams Spain wants to take off the market

If you're looking for the right sun protection this summer, then you should be aware that the Spanish Ministry of Health has requested that 14 sunscreens be withdrawn because their SPF doesn't correspond to what is advertised.

LISTED: The 14 sun creams Spain wants to take off the market
The Spanish Ministry of Health requests the withdrawal of 14 sun creams. Photo: MYCHELE DANIAU / AFP

The Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (AEMPS) and the Ministry of Health, requested on Tuesday the voluntary withdrawal of 14 sun creams because the sun protection factor (SPF) that they advertise does not correspond to the labelling.

The results were discovered during a recent trial AEMPS carried out to guarantee that the sun protection factor is the one announced by the manufacturers. The trials focused on sunscreens with SPF 50 or SPF 50+, especially those with very light creams, mists and sprays. The agency chose 19 products from companies in different countries, of different sizes and price points.

Only five of the 19 creams analysed provided protection that was consistent with its labelling.

Five of the sun creams had an SPF much lower than that indicated on their labels, always below an SPF factor of 29.9. These are:

  • Abelay Sunscreen SPF50 from Ab7
  • Mussvital Photoprotector Spray Ultra Light 50+ aerosol from Peroxfarma
  • Eucerin Sun Sensitive Protect Sun Spray Transparent Dry Touch SPF 50 High by Beiersdorf AG
  • Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydratation Solar Mist air soft SPF 50+ (High) by Wilkinson Sword
  • Australian Gold SPF Botanical SPF 50 continuous spray by Biorius

Nine of the sunscreens were found to have an SPF of between 30 and 49.9, instead of the advertised 50. These were:

  • Les Cosmetiques Sun Ultimate Sensitive SPF 50+ sun spray for sensitive skin from Carrefour
  • Belle & Sun Invisible Sun Mist SPF 50 by Perseida Beauty
  • Isdin Photoprotector Fusion Water SPF 50 from ISDIN daily use facial sunscreen
  • Farline sun spray SPF 50+ 200 mL Very High Protection
  • Babaria Solar Protective Mist SPF 50 by Berioska
  • Seesee Transparent Sun Spray SPF 50+ by Cosmetrade
  • Piz Buin Hydro Infusion Gel Sun Cream SFP 50 High Protection by Johnson & Johnson Santé Beauté
  • Ladival Sensitive Skin SPF 50+ from STADA Arzneimittel AG
  • Lancaster Sun Sensitive Luminous Tan Comfort cream SPF 50+ by Coty

No incidents of sunburn related to any of these products have been reported, however the Ministry of Consumption has started to investigate possible illicit advertising and unfair practices, and where appropriate, will sanction the manufacturers.

According to Weather Online, the UV Index in Spain and other Mediterranean countries is a lot higher than in northern European countries. Indices of 9 and 10 are common, whereas, in the UK, the UV Index rarely exceeds 8.

If you’re looking for extra protection this summer, a new app, UV-Derma has been released by professors from the University of Malaga, which calculates how long you can stay in the sun before burning. 

READ ALSO: Climate crisis: Spain records hottest year in 2020

SHOW COMMENTS