Spanish news outlets suggest that Morocco’s suspension of smuggling activities from Ceuta and Melilla will be irreversible.
Smuggling activities in the Ceuta border (Tarajal II) have been suspended since October 9, while Melilla crossing-border was closed 17 months ago.
The opening of the borders was agreed upon in the Hispanic-Moroccan treaty of Fez, in 1866. It was ratified shortly after Morocco’s independence in 1956.
The two enclaves form an income source for many Moroccans living in the northern cities of Tetouan, Fnideq, Nador, and the adjacent regions. Many people living in the areas surrounding the borders depend on them for carrying goods in and out of the Spanish enclave to sell.
Reports suggest that the unilateral decision is final and was taken without consulting the Spanish customs office at the Morocco-Melilla border, reported Spanish E-newspaper El Confidencial.
The Spanish news outlet added that the high volume of porters crossing the Tarajal II, creating blockades for hours and resulting in injuries and deaths among smugglers, prompted Rabat to prolong the border closure until the decision becomes final and irreversible.
For Morocco, the illegal import of goods from Ceuta and Melilla hinders the Moroccan economy by losing large amounts of money that could be generated through paying taxation fees.
In February 2019, the director-general of the Moroccan Administration of Customs and Indirect Taxation, Nabyl Lakhdar, estimated the value of the products entering Morocco through the Ceuta border between MAD 6 billion and MAD 8 billion per year (between €550 million and €730 million). The figures are ten times more than Ceuta’s legal exports to Morocco, estimated at €47 million.
In terms of taxes, this is the equivalent of a loss of MAD 2 and 3 billion (between €180 and €270 million).
Lakhdar, who supports a “radical” solution to “permanently” put an end to contraband border crossings with Melilla and Ceuta, announced the figures while speaking at the Moroccan House of Representatives.
He said that the prohibition of the entry of smuggled products into Morocco could be done gradually over the next 5 or 10 years.
“These are amounts that the State treasury loses, and if we add Melilla’s case, the figure is doubled,” he added.
Citizens decry decision
Rabat’s decision will be damaging to the population’s livelihood and will increase unemployment in the economically weak northern Moroccan cities. An estimated number of 78,000 inhabitants of Fnideq in addition to 380,000 in Tetouan live through trafficking goods.
On Tuesday, many people, most of them women, protested the closure of the border with Ceuta in Tetouan.
Since then, internet users have been calling for a demonstration against the suspension of the portage and “the poor economic conditions in the city.” The sit-in was scheduled for Sunday morning, December 1, at the Moulay El Mehdi square.
Local authorities in Tetouan banned the sit-in arguing that the protesters did not submit a request to hold the sit-in. Authorities said that the event would block the circulation in the city and disturb the public order.