Dutch-Moroccan relations have hit a few rough patches in recent years.
Rabat – The Netherlands has thanked the Moroccan government for its cooperation in helping an airplane full of stranded Dutch tourists return home amid COVID-19-induced flight cancellations.
Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok published the “good news” on his Twitter on April 26, announcing “the first flight from Morocco with stranded travelers in urgent situations is on its way.”
“Thanks to the Moroccan authorities for the cooperation,” Blok added, vowing to continue to work to ensure other travelers return home safely.
Dutch news outlet AD estimated the flight carried 300 stranded returnees. The news outlet said the “first repatriation flight” since the lockdown began on March 20 landed at Schiphol airport at 12:30 a.m Monday.
There are still approximately 2,7000 Dutch tourists remaining in Morocco.
Goed nieuws. De eerste vlucht uit Marokko met gestrande reizigers in urgente situaties is op weg naar NL. Dank aan de Marokkaanse autoriteiten voor de samenwerking. We blijven er hard aan werken dat ook de overige reizigers veilig thuiskomen. pic.twitter.com/0GJmbMvxIP
— Stef Blok (@ministerBlok) April 26, 2020
“We are still working on solutions step by step,” a Dutch spokesman quoted by AD said.
Dutch-Moroccan relations have hit rough patches in the last couple of years, and tensions again mounted when stranded tourists pressured the Netherlands’ government to get them home from Morocco. Thousands found themselves stuck in the North African country when Morocco suspended all international flights on March 15 and closed borders to contain the spread of COVID-19.
While Dutch people stranded in Morocco complained about a lack of response from the government in the Netherlands, some MPs turned the pressure on Morocco. Dutch MPs complained continuously about a lack of cooperation from Morocco’s end.
The Moroccan government, however, responded strongly to the claims.
On April 24 Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita denounced Dutch “political opportunism,” emphasizing Morocco has helped 40 countries repatriate dual and foreign nationals.
Bourita said the operation and Morocco’s cooperation generated overwhelmingly positive reactions.
Several countries have thanked Morocco’s positive response and collaboration, including Belgium, the UK, and the US.
On April 21, Belgian Foreign Minister Phillipe Goffin applauded the “excellent level of coordination” and the “positive dialogue” between Rabat and Brussels.
“First of all, I want to emphasize the excellent quality of relations between Belgium and Morocco. This is an element that I want to highlight first. Second element is that this crisis is marked by many events and we are confronted in our respective countries with the difficulty of managing the coronavirus. It is an international crisis,” Goffin told Moroccan state media Maghreb Arab Press (MAP).
The statement is not the first of its kind as the country had thanked Morocco for its collaboration in helping its stranded tourists, including dual nationals, return home.
The rift between Morocco and the Netherlands has precedent.
Rabat had continuously condemned the interference of Amsterdam in Morocco’s domestic affairs.
The Moroccan FM repeatedly said Rabat does not need lessons from any other country, commenting on Dutch criticism of sentences a Moroccan court handed down to Hirak Rif detainees after their participation in unauthorized protests.