Morocco should create alternatives for porters amid closure of border crossing, NGO says

To a Moroccan NGO, the government must create alternatives for porters who rely on commercial border crossings in northern Morocco. This appeal comes as the local government in Ceuta has been complaining about the closure of commercial border crossings with Morocco.

Moroccan porters near a border crossing in northern Morocco. / Fadel Senna- AFP
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The Tarajal 2 crossing separating the autonomous city of Ceuta and Fnideq, mostly used to smuggle and carry goods, and that of the city of Melilla have been closed since October 2019. The local governments of the two cities, which accused Rabat of «straggling their economies», have criticized the decision ever since.

However, Spanish newspaper El Pais stressed in one of its recent articles that while officials in Ceuta complain about the economic situation of the city after the closure of the commercial border crossing, Moroccan porters are the most affected by the decision.

The Spanish newspaper said that the Moroccan media does not usually address the impact of the closure of «Tarajal 2», which opened in mid-January 2017, on the areas surrounding Ceuta. To back its stance, the daily interviewed merchants in the city of Fnideq who said that their businesses suffer from the closure.

Finding alternatives for porters

But the situation is analyzed differently by local activist and human rights defender Mohamed Benaissa. «We have been urging the authorities to stop smuggling» in the borders, said the president of the Northern Observatory of Human Rights.

Through his association, Benaissa urged the government and authorities to «create income-generating alternatives for people who live off smuggling in the region, especially women who are suffering the most from these activities».

As for the situation of Fnideq, he said that the majority of those who came to the city to work in the past had left, and that «the city has now become almost empty».

Contrary to what was reported by El Pais, Benaissa believes that Spain is the «biggest beneficiary of smuggling activities, which is confirmed by the positions of the governments of the cities of Ceuta and Melilla after Morocco’s decision to close the border crossing». He stressed that on the other side of the border «big Moroccan smugglers» are also benefiting from these activities.

Benaissa said that what was known in the past as «carrying goods for personal use» has currently turned into «organized smuggling», with smugglers «hiring women and children to carry goods for them».

He said that a «big mafia, which is sabotaging the economy of the country, with the wrong image being passed that the beneficiaries are destitute women» would have carried out the smuggling activities.

He also added that smuggling activities in the borders have been deemed harmful to the Kingdom’s economy with losses that went from 500 million to 700 million dollars.

The report of a Parliamentary Committee on Smuggling Bab Ceuta, set up by the Committee for Foreign Affairs, National Defense, Islamic Affairs and Moroccans residing abroad at the House of Representatives, said in June that «about 3,500 women are involved in livelihood smuggling at the Ceuta crossing», in addition to «200 minor children».

It is noteworthy that the «Tarajal 2» crossing witnessed, from time to time, tragic accidents, as some statistics indicate that nine women and three men have died since 2017, as a result of the stampedes.

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