Madrid, Jun 14 (EFE).- Spain and Morocco will resume Wednesday the Operation Crossing the Strait (OPE) for three months after a two-year closure due to the coronavirus pandemic and diplomatic crisis between the two countries.
The operation, the world’s largest migration movement between two continents, was implemented 36 years ago, in 1986, to facilitate the flow of millions of people via the 15 kilometer long Strait that separates Europe and Africa.
This year, over 3 million North Africans are expected to return home from Europe for the summer.
“It is like riding a bicycle, in two years of closure we have not forgotten what is about to come,” Manuel Piedra, president of the Association of Port Services of Algeciras, a town in the far south of Spain which connects with Morocco, told Efe.
The port of Algeciras, together with the port of Tarifa in Cadiz, are the two key points of the operation due to their proximity to the ports of Tangier in Morocco and Ceuta, a Spanish territory in northern Africa.
The OPE also affects other ports in southern Spain and northern Morocco, such as Motril in Granada, which this year expects to serve 150,000 passengers on its routes to the Moroccan cities of Nador and Ahucemas and the Spanish city of Melilla.
Over 15,995 Spanish police have been deployed for this year’s operation and authorities are confident it will sail smoothly despite Morocco just recently accepting to resume maritime links with Spain in April after a diplomatic dispute.
In the first post Covid-19 OPE, travelers entering Spain will have to follow certain health protocols including a vaccination certificate or recent negative test.
Organizers have also said that tickets must be purchased online beforehand in order to avoid large crowds and queues.
The measure was criticized by Spanish NGO Friends of Morocco who said that a large percentage of North Africans do not have access or use the Internet as a daily tool. EFE