Spain mulls ending deal on Morocco border with enclaves


Spain is looking into ending a deal that allows visa-free crossing from Moroccan towns into Spain’s North African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, a government official said on Friday.

The move comes amid a row between the two countries over issues linked to Western Sahara, a region Morocco claims sovereignty over.

“The government is considering…scrapping the special regime,” Juan Gonzalez Barba, junior minister for relations with the European Union, said on Thursday during a visit to Ceuta, according to the Foreign Ministry.

“The border controls would then move to the border with Morocco,” he added.

For years, Moroccans from the towns surrounding the enclaves could enter without a visa, but required one to travel to continental Spain or the rest of Europe’s border-free Schengen Area by sea or air.

Though that is still theoretically the case, currently the border has effectively been shut by Morocco since last year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, about 8 000 people swam into Ceuta or clambered over the border fence after Moroccan authorities appeared to loosen controls in a move widely linked to the row over Western Sahara.