Moroccans long for Ceuta border reopening

By Maria Traspaderne, Mohamed Siali

Fnideq, Morocco, May 16 (EFE).- A year ago today, Walid was one of the thousands of minors swimming toward Ceuta in an attempt to cross into the Spanish enclave.

But like many, he was sent back to Fnideq, a Moroccan town that borders Ceuta.

“I would do it again,” the 16-year-old tells Efe. “There is no future in this city,” he adds.

Two years and two months after its closure, the Ceuta-Fnideq Tarajal border fence is gradually reopening its doors, coinciding with the anniversary of the entry of a 12,000-strong wave of migrants into Ceuta.

From porters and elderly caregivers to domestic workers, gardeners and construction workers, close to everyone in the Moroccan town of about 80,000 inhabitants had some kind of an employment relationship with Ceuta. But almost all were on illegal contracts.

As of midnight Tuesday, only European citizens or residents and people with a Schengen visa will be able to enter Ceuta, as well as Moroccans who still have a valid contract with a Spanish employer, starting May 31.

Those, however, are only 200 out of the 8,600 people who used to cross to Ceuta and Melilla daily for work.

Rahma, 44, worked as a house cleaner in Ceuta for 20 years without a contract for 30 euros a day.

She sometimes smuggled food, clothing, or shoes on her way back to Fnideq to earn extra money.

As a resident of the border city, her passport has the letters “LF,” which allowed her to cross into and leave Ceuta every day without a visa.

Mohamed, who now owns a juice stand, says “We want to go back to working the same thing again.”

He worked in customs and never imagined he would end up setting up a stall in the street.

Before creating his new business, Mohamed had to go to Tangier, 70 kilometers away, to work in construction but everything he earned was spent on transportation.

“I couldn’t save anything. The closure left a big void and many left Fnideq,” he says.

During the past two years, Rahma got a job in one of the programs launched by Morocco to help the residents of the Ceuta-dependent areas, but her monthly salary is what she used to earn in a week in Ceuta.

Mohamed Abkar, coordinator of the Reflection Group for Fnideq, tells Efe that this group was created over a year ago after a wave of protests over the crisis.

During this time, Morocco has employed around 4,000 people in cleaning, collecting garbage and gardening in Fnideq.

“These are very important steps but not enough,” he adds. “The state has been able to guarantee social peace so far, but we will see whether these solutions will be fruitful in the future.”

Buyema Negraui, Walid’s father, says he was the one who took his son to the border to cross into the Spanish city, where he wanted Walid to continue his studies.

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