Rabat – Spain and Morocco reached an agreement to reactivate the voluntary repatriation of Moroccans stranded in Melilla since March.
Spanish news outlet El Pais reported that a first group of Moroccans stranded in Melilla will leave the Spanish enclave on Wednesday through Beni Ensar, the main border crossing between Morocco and Melilla.
Government delegate in Melilla, Sabrina Moh, announced the news on Tuesday, the Spanish news outlet said.
The Melilla official said repatriation is voluntary, only concerning Moroccans who request their return to their country.
“All those people who provided their contact details and conveyed their wish to return to Morocco will be able to do so,” the delegate underlined.
Moh said that there will be two sea repatriation trips for Moroccans stranded in Melilla, on Friday and Sunday.
Moroccan health authorities requested capping the groups at 200 people to allow for COVID-19 screening, according to El Pais.
The news outlet said the total number of Moroccans stranded in Melilla since Morocco closed borders in mid-March is unknown. However, the number of stranded Moroccans may exceed 700, El Pais continued.
In addition to Melilla, Moroccan authorities also collaborated with authorities in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, where hundreds of Moroccans were stranded and requested repatriation due to border closures.
Morocco first announced firm lockdown measures in March to limit the spread of the pandemic.
Within the measures, Morocco closed sea, air, and land borders before declaring a state of emergency that went into effect on March 20.
Due to the closures, 33,000 Moroccans were stranded abroad, including in Ceuta and Melilla, calling on the government for repatriation.
In June, Morocco launched a repatriation campaign to bring back citizens stranded abroad.
On July 15, Morocco’s Royal Air Maroc and Air Arabia Maroc launched special flights with “competitive prices” for stranded Moroccans wishing to come home.
The flights also concern Moroccans residing abroad, foreigners living in Morocco, and their families.
Tourists from visa-exempt countries with hotel reservations can now also access Morocco, along with business men and women if they have invitations from Moroccan companies.
Moroccan authorities have conditioned eligibility to travel to the country on several measures, such as passing a PCR test within 48 hours of departure for Morocco.