MADRID – Operation ‘Paso del Estrecho‘ it is called: the crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar by millions of Moroccans living in Europe who want to spend the summer in their family’s country. It started this weekend with long lines.
Especially on the border with Ceuta, thousands of people and hundreds of vehicles are waiting in a special parking lot. This is designed to avoid traffic jams when passing through Tarajal customs. After leaving the ferry from Algeciras, the travellers are directed to this parking lot. There they have to wait until they can cross the border.
More than three million travellers
From July 1 to September, more than three million travellers are expected to travel to Morocco. They will come from various countries in Europe via the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. Many Ceuta residents also cross the border to visit their family on the other side or spend the weekend in the neighbouring country.
No basic services
This year, Eid al-Adha, the Passover of the Sacrifice, coincides with the start of summer vacation, so the number of travellers could skyrocket in the coming hours. However, after the long journey, many travellers do not understand, writes El Mundo, why they have to wait so long in Ceuta in a place without basic services such as a simple shop or a point where they can buy hot or cold drinks or food.
Residents near the parking lot are irritated by the crowds, the honking of horns, and the noise. Some come to the parking lot to offer help or even to their homes where the stranded travellers can use the toilet for a while. The eight mobile toilets that have been set up are by no means sufficient.
The disorganised situation has also sparked protests. Among those waiting are many families with small children who become desperate after a few hours of waiting in the heat.
Well-informed sources confirm to El Mundo that the delays are due to “accurate” controls by the Moroccan customs authorities. They also check whether the sanitary measures imposed by the Moroccan government are being complied with. Among other things, customs officials must check each traveller’s Covid passport.
Management of crossing “disastrous” and “embarrassing”
Meanwhile, opposition parties in Ceuta are denouncing the situation at the border. The various formations have described the management of Operation Paso del Estrecho as “disastrous” and “embarrassing” after seeing the accumulation of cars in Loma Colmenar’s parking lot. They denounce the lack of health care, and social services and the fact that the police “only act at times when the situation threatens to spill over and become an even more serious problem,” deplored Assembly deputy Mohamed Mustafa of Ceuta Nu! He does not understand the disorder after they have had two years to better prepare for the pandemic.
Ceuta’s PSOE is demanding that the government “urgently” approve the installation of more food and drink outlets.
The number of vehicles increased by 45%
Government representatives consider the situation positive. The number of vehicles that have come to the autonomous city so far has increased by 45%. In addition, they claim to take measures to prevent further collapse of Operation Paso del Estrecho.