The Council of the Oriental Region, in northeastern Morocco, has created a fund for investment projects to support former smugglers, Moroccans who previously smuggled products from the Spanish enclave of Melilla.
The council recently approved the allocation of MAD 8 million ($870,000) annually for the fund.
The fund is set to finance several economic and social projects in northeastern Morocco.
The projects will benefit thousands of former Moroccan smugglers who used to transport products from Melilla before Morocco closed its borders with the enclave.
According to the regional council, more than 3,500 women and about 200 minors lost their livelihood after the border closure.
The fund is set to finance large projects in northeastern Morocco, with high job creation potential, but also small individual projects of ex-smugglers.
The regional council will create a committee to select the projects to benefit from financing, based on their income generation and job creation potentials.
The creation of the fund comes one year after Morocco shut down its borders with Ceuta and Melilla.
Morocco’s government closed the borders because of the injuries and deaths among Moroccan smugglers, caused by the several-hours-long blockades at crossing points.
The impact of illegal imports on the national economy also played a role in Morocco’s decision.
In February 2019, the Director-General of the Moroccan Administration of Customs and Indirect Taxation, Nabyl Lakhdar, estimated the value of products illegally entering Morocco through the Ceuta border alone at MAD 6 billion ($621.2 million) to MAD 8 billion ($828.3 million) every year.
The smuggling operations cost Morocco between MAD 2 billion ($207.1 million) and MAD 3 billion ($310.6 million) in unpaid taxes yearly.
Along with the new fund to support former smugglers, Morocco’s northeastern region will witness the launch of other projects, most notably an economic zone. The platform, to be set up in Nador, aims to attract foreign investment and create jobs.