Nearly 300,000 people have crossed from Spain to Morocco in the last month. This weekend saw the peak of border crossings.
Granada – Thousands of Moroccans living abroad (MREs) returning to Morocco for Eid al-Adha overwhelmed the Moroccan border with Ceuta over the weekend.
As many as 295,000 Moroccans have returned to Morocco from Spain for the summer holidays since July 15, when Spain’s Operation Strait Passage (OPE) began. Each year, OPE facilitates the return of Maghrebis to their home countries.
The weekend saw the operation’s busiest days as many Moroccans returned home for the Eid of sacrifice. Muslim families celebrate together God’s provision of a lamb for Ibrahim by sacrifcing a ram or goat.
Lines of vehicles waiting to cross from Ceuta into Morocco inundated the border on Saturday, August 10. Many Moroccans had come across the Strait of Gibraltar from Algeciras to Ceuta by ferry. In Algeciras, some ferries left more than 30 minutes after their scheduled departure due to the large volume of vehicles.
Officials anticipated the large influx of MREs, and there were no incidents reported in connection with the delays at Algeciras.
In 1982, an “avalanche” of vehicles and people descending on Algeciras to take the ferry to Ceuta led the Spanish government to implement special plans for dealing with the numbers. In Algeciras, the government set up a special parking lot for vehicles waiting to board the ferry. Upon arrival in Ceuta, officials segmented vehicles into groups of 100 to navigate from the port to the border with Morocco.
In Morocco, the government prepares annually for the return of MREs with Operation Marhaba. The operation coordinates the smoothe arrival of hundreds of thousands of Moroccans returning home for the summer holidays from Europe.
Last month, the Spanish interior minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, said Marhaba was an “example of good coordination between the different public administrations and between neighboring countries.”