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Spain extends land border closure with Morocco by 15 days

Spain on Saturday announced its two enclaves in North Africa, the EU's only land borders with the continent, would remain closed for 15 days, dashing hopes they would finally reopen after two years.

Spain extends land border closure with Morocco by 15 days
This picture picture taken on March 4th, 2022 shows a view of the border fence separating Morocco from Spain's North African Melilla enclave, near Nador in Morocco. Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP

The frontiers of the two Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla were first shut in spring 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic and stayed closed during a diplomatic crisis in 2021 between Madrid and Rabat.

The borders were due to reopen on Saturday at midnight. But an order published in the official gazette said they would remain shut for “15 days so that the conditions for the gradual and orderly reopening of border posts at the entry and exit of Ceuta and Melilla are concluded”.

The Spanish interior ministry said the police force had been “strengthened” in the two enclaves.

During a landmark visit to Rabat on April 8th by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, Spain and Morocco hailed a “new stage” in relations.

Sánchez said one of the “main aims will be the restoration of goods and property at the border crossings of Ceuta and Melilla”.

Ferries resumed between Morocco and Spain this month, with the first Spanish vessel docking in Tangiers port on April 12th after two years.

The diplomatic crisis began a year ago when Madrid allowed Brahim Ghali, leader of the Polisario Front which seeks independence for the territory of Western Sahara, to be treated for Covid-19 in a Spanish hospital.

 A month later 10,000 migrants surged across the Moroccan border into Spain’s Ceuta enclave as local border forces looked the other way, in what was widely seen as a punitive gesture by Rabat.

Last month, Spain ended the diplomatic crisis with Morocco by removing its decades-long stance of neutrality and backing Morocco’s autonomy plan for the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

Rabat calls for the territory to have an autonomous status under Moroccan sovereignty but Polisario wants a referendum on self-determination under the supervision of the United Nations.

READ MORE: Maritime travel between Morocco and Spain resumes after two-year hiatus

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TRAVEL NEWS

TRAVEL: Spain extends ban on unvaccinated non-EU tourists

Britons, Americans and other non-EU/Schengen travellers who are neither vaccinated nor recently recovered from Covid-19 will not be able to visit Spain for tourism for at least another month, Spanish authorities have confirmed.

TRAVEL: Spain extends ban on unvaccinated non-EU tourists

The Spanish government has again extended temporary restrictions for non-essential travel (including tourism) from most third countries for another month, until June 15th 2022.

That means that non-EU/Schengen adults who reside outside of the EU and who haven’t been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 or recovered from the illness in the past six months cannot go on holiday to Spain during the next month. 

Therefore, Spain continues to not accept negative Covid-19 tests from British, American, Canadian, Indian or other third-country nationals who are neither vaccinated nor recently recovered. 

There had been hopes that the shorter two-week extension to the ban on non-essential travel issued on April 30th, as well as talk of the “orderly and progressive reopening” of the country’s borders, would mean that unvaccinated third country nationals would be allowed into Spain in May.

But in the end, Saturday May 14th’s state bulletin confirmed that Spain will keep the same measures in place for another 31 days, stating that they “will eventually be modified to respond to a change of circumstances or to new recommendations in the context of the European Union”.

Spain’s ban on unvaccinated non-EU travellers is arguably the last major Covid-19 restriction in place in the country, and other EU countries such as Sweden, Poland, Denmark, Czech Republic and Ireland are allowing unvaccinated tourists in.

This latest announcement by the Spanish government marks the umpteenth extension to non-essential travel from outside of the EU/Schengen area over the past two years of the pandemic, the previous one was due to expire on May 15th. 

But perhaps this extension is the most surprising, as the Spanish health ministry has modified its rulebook to treat Covid-19 like the flu and the country wants to recover the tourism numbers it had pre-pandemic.

The ban affects unvaccinated British tourists in particular, as the UK is still the biggest tourism market for Spain, but Britons’ non-EU status means they have to follow the same Covid-19 travel rules as other third-country nationals.

Vaccinated or recovered third-country travellers

Those who were fully vaccinated against Covid-19 more than two weeks prior to travel to Spain will need to show a valid vaccination certificate with an EMA or WHO approved vaccine.

If their initial vaccination treatment was completed more than 9 months ago (270 days), they’ll need to show they’ve had a Covid-19 booster shot. 

As for non-EU/Schengen travellers who have recovered from Covid-19 in the past six months, they will need to show a recovery certificate to prove this

According to Spain’s Health Ministry, recovery certificates accepted as valid are those “issued at least 11 days after the first positive NAAT or RAT, and up to a maximum of 180 days after the date of sampling”, as well as being issued by the relevant authorities.

Exceptions

In early February, Spanish authorities also decided to start allowing unvaccinated non-EU/Schengen teenagers aged 12 to 17 to visit Spain for tourism if they provided a negative PCR.

Spain continues to have a small list of low-risk third countries whose travellers visiting Spain for non-essential reasons can enter without having to present proof of Covid-19 testing, recovery or vaccination. 

This is updated weekly and can be checked here by clicking on the PDF under “risk and high risk countries/areas”. 

READ ALSO: Can I travel to my second home in Spain if I’m not vaccinated?

If you’re not vaccinated or recovered, the exceptions for travel to Spain from third countries that fall under the non-essential travel restrictions are:

  • You are a resident in the EU or Schengen country.
  • You have a visa for a long duration stay in an EU or Schengen country.
  • You work in transport, such as airline staff or are in a maritime profession.
  • You work in diplomatic, consular, international organisations, military or civil protection or are a member of a humanitarian organisation.
  • You have a student visa for a country in the EU or Schengen zone.
  • You are a highly qualified worker or athlete whose work cannot be postponed or carried out remotely.
  • You are travelling for duly accredited imperative family reasons.
  • You are allowed entry due to force majeure or on humanitarian grounds.
  • And as mentioned earlier in the article, if you have a vaccination certificate that Spain’s Ministry of Health recognises, as well as for any accompanying minors (unless they’re under 12 years of age).

READ ALSO: When do I need to fill out Spain’s Covid health control form for travel?

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