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Spain and Morocco reopen land borders after two-year closure

Morocco and Spain have reopened the land borders between the north African country and the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, two years after they were shut due to Covid restrictions and a major diplomatic row.

Spain and Morocco reopen land borders after two-year closure
Moroccan police officers check people in Fnideq on May 17, 2022, before they cross into the Spanish enclave of Ceuta as the land border between Morocco and Spain reopens after two years. (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

The enclaves on the Mediterranean coast in northern Morocco have the European Union’s only land borders with Africa.

The gates opened shortly after 11:00 pm local time (2200 GMT) on Monday night, letting dozens of cars and queues of pedestrians pass in both directions.

At the Fnideq border post, smiles lit up the faces of the travellers crossing to see their families on the Moroccan side.

“I was stuck for two years in Ceuta, I’m very happy to be back home,” said Nourredine.

“I am happy that Morocco and Spain have restored their relations, it allows us to see our families,” said one man in his sixties.

The reopening of the borders of the two enclaves initially remains limited to residents of Europe’s open-borders Schengen area and their family members.

It will be expanded to cross-border workers after May 31st.

The local economies on both sides of the borders depend on the crossing of people and goods.

The Ceuta and Melilla crossings were closed during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.

The borders became the focus of a major dispute last year, when Madrid allowed the leader of a Western Saharan independence movement to be treated for Covid-19 in a Spanish hospital.

Ten thousand migrants surged across the Moroccan border into Ceuta as local border forces looked the other way, a move widely seen as a punitive gesture by Rabat.

In March this year, Spain moved to end the diplomatic crisis with Morocco by changing its decades-long stance of neutrality and backing the kingdom’s autonomy plan for the Western Sahara, which Rabat insists must remain under its sovereignty.

Maritime travel between the two countries resumed on April 12th.

Following their reconciliation, Morocco and Spain have committed to strengthening cooperation on irregular migration.

Morocco, which is one of Spain’s major trade partners, plays a significant role in controlling flows of migrants towards Europe.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Cabin crew staff to extend Spain strike by 12 days

A cabin crew strike at EasyJet and Ryanair saw 15 flights to and from Spain cancelled and 175 others delayed Saturday, as staff at the Irish airline announced 12 more days of stoppages.

Cabin crew staff to extend Spain strike by 12 days

The strike at the two low-cost airlines over pay and working conditions began as European schools started breaking up for the summer, creating headaches for both holidaymakers and the aviation sector.

By 1:00 pm (1100 GMT) on Saturday, 10 Ryanair and five EasyJet flights had been cancelled and 175 flights delayed, of which 123 Ryanair and 52 EasyJet, unions said in a statement.

The series of rolling strikes by Ryanair cabin crew in Spain — where there are some 1,900 employees –began on June 24, with EasyJet staff joining on Friday.

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

Ryanair’s USO union rep said the new stoppages would take place in three four-day stretches: July 12 to 15, July 18 to 21, and July 25 to 28 at the 10 Spanish airports where Ryanair operates.

“After six days of strike and in view of the unwillingness of the company to listen to its staff and its preference for leaving thousands of passengers grounded rather than sitting down to negotiate an agreement under Spanish law, we have been forced to call new strike days,” said USO’s Lidia Arasanz.

She said the initial strike, which consisted of two three-day stretches, had seen “more than 200 flights cancelled and almost 1,000 delays”, with the upcoming stoppages likely to create similar levels of disruption.

EasyJet crew have pledged to strike during the first three weekends of July to demand parity in working conditions in line with other European airlines.

The strikes are a headache for the aviation sector, which has struggled to recruit people after massive layoffs during the Covid pandemic.

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