The newly repatriated citizens will spend a quarantine period in the Moroccan town of Saidia before being able to return to their families.
Rabat – The Moroccan government authorized today, May 15, the repatriation of 500 Moroccans who COVID-19 border closures left stranded in the Spanish enclave of Melilla in northeastern Morocco, Spanish news agency EFE reported.
The operation will take place over two stages; 200 citizens will re-enter Morocco in the coming hours, while the remaining 300 will travel home in a second phase, EFE reported quoting official Moroccan sources.
After preparing a list of the soon-to-be-repatriated citizens, Moroccan authorities shared the plans with Spanish authorities in Melilla to agree on the logistics of the operation.
Morocco contacted Melilla’s government this morning to arrange the transfer. Thus far, there has been no official announcement from Spanish authorities in the enclave.
Once the Moroccan citizens re-enter home soil via the land borders with Melilla, the repatriated nationals will stay in the tourist town of Saidia, about 80 kilometers east of Melilla. They will undergo a quarantine period in Saidia’s hotels, left empty due to border closures.
The operation comes less than 24 hours after a Moroccan woman died at the Plaza de Toros Homeless Shelter in Melilla, according to local newspaper Melilla Hoy.
The woman worked as a domestic worker in Melilla, until she lost her job about 10 days ago. After being left homeless and unable to return to Morocco, Spanish Civil Guard found her wandering the streets and took her to the shelter.
Staff at the temporary shelter found the woman’s body in the bathroom, bleeding from the nose and ears. The cause of death is as yet unknown.
Morocco closed its borders with Melilla on March 12, leaving hundreds of Moroccans stuck in the Spanish enclave. Morocco also suspended all air and maritime travel three days later, barring even more citizens from returning home.
The Moroccan government currently estimates that 27,850 citizens are stuck abroad.
While the stranded Moroccans have been demanding repatriation for weeks, the Moroccan government’s reassuring statements have not yet been matched with tangible action.
On April 23, Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita shared that Morocco is planning to repatriate all of its citizens stranded abroad, saying, “Moroccans have the right to come home. It’s incontestable.”
Then, on May 7, the Moroccan government reiterated the importance of rigorously preparing for the repatriation of Moroccans stranded abroad.
The government is closely monitoring the situation of stranded Moroccans, and Morocco’s diplomatic representations made efforts to accommodate and support 5,704 of the stranded nationals, Government Spokesperson Said Amzazi said.
Although there has been no official announcement yet, the repatriation of Moroccans from Melilla could be the start of a large-scale operation to bring back citizens marooned across the world.