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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Ryanair strike in Spain: 54 flights cancelled and 300 delayed on Thursday

Fifty-four Ryanair flights to and from Spain were cancelled on Thursday and several hundred others delayed during an ongoing strike by the low-cost airline’s cabin staff.

Ryanair strike in Spain: 54 flights cancelled and 300 delayed on Thursday

The strike which took place as European schools were breaking up for the summer was the latest stoppage by European airline staff demanding better conditions.

By 8:00 pm (1800 GMT), 54 flights had been cancelled and more than 300 delayed, with the airports in Barcelona and Malaga worst-hit, the USO union said.

Although Ryanair had said all scheduled flights would be operating, the airline “had not called in the full crew” at certain airports.

“The crew members that were not called in have joined the strike while those that were, went to the airports.. but there were not enough of them to operate the flights,” it said.

The strike by Ryanair cabin crew in Spain, where there are some 1,900 employees, is affecting 10 of the airline bases in the country and is due to run until July 2nd.

Earlier, the airline said flight disruption through the strike was “minimal” and only affected three percent of its Spanish flights.

The employees, who are demanding better working conditions, began an initial three-day strike on June 24 during which 129 Spanish flights were cancelled, the union said.

USO union representative Ernesto Iglesias (C) talks to the press during a Ryanair employees strike at Adolfo Suarez Madrid Barajas airport Madrid on June 24, 2022. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Ryanair is the airline that transports the most passengers in the Spanish market, offering more than 650 routes to 27 airports, the company says.

The initial strike in Spain coincided with industrial action by the airline’s staff in Portugal, Belgium, Italy and France demanding respect for labour rights and higher wages.

On Friday, staff with rival low-cost airline EasyJet will also be striking for the first of three weekends in July demanding parity in working conditions in line with other European airlines.

READ ALSO: What are your rights if flights are delayed or cancelled?