The discrepancy between Morocco and Spain over the exact number of Moroccans trapped in Ceuta and Melilla has frozen the repatriation of these people, who are no more than 420, according to Rabat, and are around 1,300, according to the Spanish authorities.
Moroccan government sources explained to Efe that its executive has a list of 140 people trapped in Melilla, while the Spanish authorities want to return more than 600 people, in addition to the 200 repatriated last Friday and Saturday through the Beni Ansar border crossing.
With regard to Ceuta, where the repatriation operation has not yet begun, Morocco has demonstrated its willingness to receive 280 nationals who are blocked in that city, but the Spanish authorities have raised that figure to around 700 people.
The same sources explained to Efe that Morocco does not consider that people who were illegally in Ceuta and Melilla can now be considered “trapped”.
For Rabat, the “repatriable” people are those who usually live in Morocco and who have been blocked in the two Spanish cities after visiting them occasionally for medical or business reasons, among others.
Last Friday, Morocco informed that it authorized the entry to the country of some 500 nationals trapped in Melilla because of the closure of its borders last March 17 as a preventive measure against the coronavirus.
During Friday and Saturday, 200 people entered the Maghreb country in two batches and were taken to the tourist town of Saidia, about 80 kilometers east of Melilla, to be quarantined in a hotel in that town, usually empty outside the summer season.
Meanwhile, the Moroccan authorities have set up two hotel complexes on the Mediterranean coast south of Ceuta to house their first citizens who manage to return when there is an agreement between Morocco and Spain to resume repatriation. Officially, Morocco has not made these repatriation operations public, which can be explained by the particular nature of Ceuta and Melilla, whose Spanish sovereignty Morocco does not recognize.
The closure of Morocco’s borders surprised almost 28,000 citizens abroad – according to recent figures from Moroccan diplomacy – who were away for tourism, family visits or business.