Pandemic sparks reverse migration from Spain to Morocco

Illegal migrants are scared by the record numbers of COVID-19 infections and deaths in Spain and driven by the drop in employment opportunities for foreign workers.
Wednesday 29/04/2020
A 2018 file photo shows a Spanish Guardia Civil officer standing next to Moroccan illegal migrants after they arrived on a rubber dinghy near Tarifa, in the south of Spain. (AFP)
Opposite current. A 2018 file photo shows a Spanish Guardia Civil officer standing next to Moroccan illegal migrants after they arrived on a rubber dinghy near Tarifa, in the south of Spain. (AFP)

RABAT - A recent European report said that human trafficking networks specialising in clandestine migration to Europe have seized on the COVID-19 pandemic to organise illegal trips but in the opposite direction this time. The report stated that there has been a flow of illegal Moroccan migrants fleeing the pandemic in Spain towards their country, Morocco.

According to Spanish media, around 100 Moroccans illegally left the Spanish coast in late March on boats that set sail towards Morocco. Each irregular migrant paid smugglers a fee for the trip.

Scared by the record numbers of COVID-19 infections and deaths in Spain and driven by the drop in employment opportunities for foreign workers, many young Moroccans living illegally in Spain are considering returning to their country. Moreover, Morocco closed all airports and border crossings with Spain to prevent the spread of the pandemic at a time when numerous Moroccans were stranded in Spain, which also closed its airports and border crossings.

There were some 600 stranded Moroccans in the occupied Ceuta and Melilla enclaves after the closure of the land border between Morocco and Spain, including those who had been vacationing in Europe and engineers who worked in Ceuta and Melilla but lived on Moroccan soil. Minister of Foreign Affairs, African Cooperation and Moroccans Expatriates Nasser Bourita announced that Moroccan authorities intended to repatriate the 22,000 Moroccan nationals stranded abroad, including those in Spain, once the pandemic conditions ease up.

According to data from the Spanish Interior Ministry, the number of illegal arrivals in Spain has decreased significantly in the past three weeks after transit countries, led by Morocco, closed their borders and implemented restrictions on movement.