Algeria and Morocco share the world’s longest closed land border.
Rabat – The Algerian government has reportedly deported a group of 20 Moroccan craftsmen amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Moroccan newspaper Al Alam reported that Algerian authorities sent the Moroccans across the closed border between the two countries. The authorities allegedly left the craftsmen in the Jerada region and south of Oujda, in eastern Morocco.
Administrative and security authorities were surprised to find 12 people at the entrance into Oujda, the newspaper added.
After interrogations, the 12 Moroccan nationals said Algeria expelled them, and they had to walk 31 kilometers to reach the city, the newspaper reported.
Others joined the first 12 men, arriving the next day.
The craftsmen worked in several cities in Algeria.
The Algerian consulates in Rabat and Casablanca did not respond to telephone calls for a statement. Staff at the Algerian embassy could not confirm the allegations, telling Morocco World News to call back on Monday. “Today is Friday and nobody is available,” he said.
Algeria’s motivation behind the deportations remains unclear.
With 25 deaths from the coronavirus, Algeria has the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in Africa. The country has 367 confirmed cases, more cases than all African countries except South Africa and Egypt. Countries across the world are enforcing restrictions on domestic and international travel to limit the spread of the highly contagious pandemic.
Morocco, with 275 cases, has the third most coronavirus cases in Africa and 11 deaths. Morocco suspended all international flights earlier this month and entered a state of emergency with strong restrictions on any travel on March 20.
A video of a Moroccan national in Algeria asking for King Mohammed VI’s intervention to help him get home to Morocco has gone viral.
“We have been here for hours. The Algerian authorities told us that they cannot do anything for us and that we need to seek help from Moroccan authorities and our King. We want to return home. We don’t want to die outside of our homeland,” he said.
Algeria and Morocco have a history of tense relations and clashes due to a border demarcation rift and the Western Sahara conflict.
The border between the two states has been closed since 1994 after Morocco imposed visa regulations on Algerians in the wake of the Asni terrorist attack in Marrakech.
Algeria has also challenged Morocco’s territorial integrity and sovereignty over Western Sahara, sheltering and financing the breakaway group Polisario.