Just like last year, the Moroccan government has excluded Spain from operation ‘Marhaba’, the massive summer return to Morocco by road and sea by those living abroad.
Until last year, Morocco always involved the Spanish ports in the summer operation Marhaba. This year’s exclusion can be explained by the tensions between Rabat and Madrid. This is partly the result of the admission of Polisario leader Brahim Ghali to a Spanish hospital on 18 April. Tensions continued to be felt even after the separatist leader returned to Algeria. Several Spanish media suggest excluding Spain is a reaction by the Moroccan government to this event.
The decision means a huge loss of income for the three main Spanish ports of Algeciras, Almeria and Tarifa. In 2020, the cancellation of the Marhaba operation meant a deficit of €70 million for these ports. In 2019, the ports registered, 894,891, 280,312 and 271,554 passengers respectively.
But Moroccans who want to spend the summer in Morocco also suffer. Only a tenth of those who normally travel by boat can make the crossing from France or Italy. And although flying to and from Morocco will be possible again from 15th June, no more than a million Moroccans will be able to travel home.
France and Italy
A statement issued by the Moroccan government on Sunday night said the return to Morocco can only take place “from the same transit ports as last year”. In other words, with boats from the French ports of Marseille and Sète, and Italian port of Genoa. This will allow some 250,000 Moroccans to cross.
Passengers on these ships will require a PCR test before boarding and then another one on board, the statement said. This means there will be a testing facility on every ship, almost certainly for rapid tests.
Flights to and from Spain
Morocco will, however, resume flights to and from almost all European destinations, including Spain, on 15th June, albeit with some restrictions. The Moroccan Foreign Ministry explained in a statement, access to Morocco depends on two different health protocols, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) standards, in the countries from which the flights depart.
The first list (List A, majority) includes the countries with better control over the pandemic and its variants. It includes all European states except Ukraine. Among others it also includes the US and Canada, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Egypt and Ethiopia. Travellers from these countries can enter the Moroccan territory if they hold a valid vaccination certificate or proof of a negative PCR test less than 48 hours before boarding.
The second list (List B) comprises 74 countries where the coronavirus situation has not yet improved. This list includes states in South America (such as Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela), Africa (such as Algeria, South Africa, Cameroon and Mali) and Asia (such as India, Malaysia, Qatar, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates).