“Finally!” On Wednesday, the first day of Spain’s “Passage to Straight” operation, the 20-year-old Moroccan Reda, who arrived in the southern Spanish port of Al Jazeera, marked the return of summer. In the country of the Moroccan diaspora.
Like him, millions of Moroccans in Europe waited three years to return to Morocco by car and boat via Spain for the summer via the “Route to Plate”.
To this end, Rabat had to decide in mid-April to resume maritime relations with Spain after nearly a year of intense diplomatic crisis between the two countries on the border of the Gibraltar Strait.
“Last night I couldn’t sleep, I was so excited,” says Reta, a student in Helsinki, Finland, who crossed Europe with her friend a week ago, and with her family in Agadir, over 4,000 kilometers across Europe. , Southwest of Morocco.
With more than 3.3 million passengers and more than 760,000 vehicles in the summer of 2019, “crossing strait” or “marhaba” (“welcome” in Arabic) activity is “very high between continents” in such a short period of time. According to the Spanish government.
“Two summers (2020 and 2021) that I will not spend in my life in Morocco”, Reta underlined, tapping the shoe on his foot and popping his head. Getting in the car, “This is almost a tradition for us”.
In the large port complex of Al Jazeera, Reta is located 14 km from the port of Tangier in Morocco. On Wednesday, we started to see some cars mounted on the roof and families looking for a shady place to eat in front of the red boats.
On the other side of the strait, at the port of Tanker-Willy, the visit went unimpeded.
“The reception went very well. We checked in, but I think it’s good for everyone’s safety. However I’m in a hurry to start my vacation,” Omar told the AFP, disembarking from the boat. “Maria Dolores”, departed from Tarifa. , Another Spanish port.
It is not yet crowded, which is expected by the end of the month and the first weekend of July.
– Relief after anger –
However, it is not obvious that this will return to normal.
Maritime links between Spain and Morocco did not reopen until mid-April, while Rabat reopened its ports to other European countries from the summer of 2021.
The border between the two countries was closed in March 2020 due to the Kovit-19 epidemic, and the closure was extended by the diplomatic crisis of May 2021 over the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara, which Morocco controls 80%. But this is also being demanded by the Sahrawi separatists of the Policario Front.
The crisis ended in March as Madrid gave its support to Morocco’s autonomy plan.
“It’s a shame (…) because of these disputes between politicians, the bill-makers are the people,” said Abdel Ghani, 67, a pensioner who is a double Spanish and Moroccan who came to buy tickets.
“You can’t close the border when millions of people want to cross,” says Reta, whose parents went “crazy” last summer after Spain banned maritime communications with Morocco.
– Loss of 500 million euros –
This summer, Spanish and Moroccan officials expect more travelers than in the pre-epidemic year of 2019.
Morocco halted its “Marhaba” operation on June 5 in the Spanish ports of Motril, Almeria and Al Jazeeras, but also with agents in Seth and Marseille in southern France and Genoa in Italy.
But “unfortunately, the lost money” can not be “recovered” for more than two years, laments Manuel Petra, president of the Association of Service Companies of Al Jazeera Bay (Aesba).
The direct and indirect losses are estimated at around மில்லியன் 500 million, representing 90 local companies, including several shipping companies.
While waiting for his boat, Reta forgets politics, stares at space and travels through time: “It reminds me of my childhood, I traveled by car every summer”. “This is so awesome”!