Morocco shut down borders with Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla to rescue its internal economy.
Rabat – The towns of Fnideq and M’diq in northern Morocco witnessed several protests recently, with demonstrators denouncing social disparity and socio-economic crisis in the region.
One of the latest protests took place on Friday in front of the headquarters of the municipality of Fnideq.
The small town in the Tangier-Tetouan Al Hoceima region is home to thousands of citizens whose main source of living was the smuggling of goods from Spanish enclave of Ceuta and Melilla.
Morocco, however, shut down borders with the two enclaves to rescue its “bleeding” internal economy.
The country closed crossing borders with the Spanish enclave of Melilla before the emergence of COVID-19, while it suspended access to the Ceuta border Tarajal II gate on October 9, 2020.
In closing the country to both enclaves, the Moroccan government complained mainly about the highly negative impact the smuggling of goods had had on its economy. 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 €550 million and €730 million.
Lakhdar stressed that Morocco was forced to turn to “radical” solutions to “permanently put an end to contraband border crossings with Melilla and Ceuta.”
Meanwhile, the decision suspended the activities of hundreds of women “mules” who used to carry goods in and out of the Spanish enclave to sell.
The move caused uproar among locals in northern Morocco, many of whom make a living through carrying goods from the Spanish enclaves.
Socio-economic marginalization and the government’s inability to suggest an alternative for thousands of out-of-work citizens eventually ignited a series of protests amid COVID-19 restrictions.
Citizens decry the economic crisis and corresponding lack of resources brought about by the closing of the borders with Ceuta and Melilla.
Amid the unrest, the Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceima region has suggested some alternatives benefiting local women.
The provincial authorities in the region and the National Agency for the Promotion of Employment and Skills (ANAPEC) offered women in the region work contracts.
The agreement is said to be part of the implementation of the integrated program of economic and social development of the prefecture of M’diq-Fnideq and the province of Tetouan in northern Morocco.
Around 650 women have so far signed their employment contracts.
The contracts will secure job opportunities for women in industrial units specializing in textile recycling.
The initiative will benefit 700 women.
Despite the proposal, Morocco continues to suffer from the rise in unemployment.
A recent study from the High Commission for Planning (HCP) said that the North African country’s unemployment has moved from 9.2% in 2019 to 11.9% in 2020.
The study shows that the unemployment rate increased by 2.7 points between the two years.