Morocco has given a new twist to the diplomatic crisis with Spain. The Moroccan Ministry of Health issued a statement on Monday night in which it assures that it had chosen to repatriate its nationals from Portugal because the Spanish authorities do not exercise “due and strict control of the health status of the passengers at the time of boarding at their airports ”. The note indicates that allowing travel from Spain “constitutes a threat to the health of citizens. [marroquíes] and a risk to the achievements made by Morocco ”in its fight against the pandemic. Since November 29 there has been no flight from Spain to Morocco.
The Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares, has described the accusations of the Moroccan Ministry of Health as “unacceptable”, which, he has assured, “do not correspond to reality.” “Spain complies with all international requirements and that is how I am going to transfer it to Morocco,” he said, visibly annoyed, at a joint press conference with his Luxembourgian colleague, Jean Asselborn, visiting Madrid this Tuesday. Although Rabat claims to have detected several positive cases of covid in passengers in transit or from Spain, the minister stressed that Morocco had not reported any incident before making the statement public. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has summoned the Moroccan Charge d’affaires in Madrid and the Spanish Embassy in Rabat has contacted the Moroccan authorities to inform them that the Spanish Government “does not consider the statement at all acceptable, although Albares has not clarified whether it has been presented. a formal note of protest.
Despite this, the minister has insisted that the two governments maintain a “fluid dialogue” and has expressed his confidence that those who work “in good faith and with good will” will prevail for the normalization of relations between the two countries, giving to understand that not everyone does it that way. And he concluded with a warning: “No one should be misled, the interests of Spain will always be defended.” Since last May, Rabat led to the irregular entry of more than 10,000 immigrants into Ceuta and called for consultations with its ambassador in Madrid, Karima Benyaich, bilateral relations between Madrid and Rabat have not been normalized, despite good words.
The new barrage of the Moroccan authorities comes just a month after Rabat approved, on November 18, a rule that stopped requiring a PCR test for travelers from Spain. Morocco has only asked since then for the vaccination certificate with the complete schedule, the only requirement that Spain had been demanding for several months from passengers arriving from the African country. In reality, Morocco’s position changed radically in 10 days, since since November 29 all flights to Morocco were suspended. And only special repatriation flights from three countries were authorized since December 15: Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Portugal. Health authorities never explained why those countries and not others. On Monday night, the Moroccan Ministry of Health assured that, “after observing the travel procedures, it was found that the competent Spanish authorities do not carry out the strict and adequate health of passengers at the time of boarding at their airports.” .
On Sunday, November 28, after the omicron variant was detected in South Africa, Morocco decreed that the next day flights to and from Morocco were suspended for two weeks. Before the deadline, on December 13, Rabat decided to indefinitely extend the cancellation of all arrival flights. After the damage suffered by thousands of its own nationals blocked in the world, Rabat decided to authorize the aforementioned repatriation flights from December 15. In principle, these special flights were to operate without a deadline. But on the same Wednesday, December 15, the Moroccan authorities announced that they would only be available until December 23. The argument that they used to explain their decision was that of “the brilliant spread of the omicron variant throughout the planet” and “its worrying progression in the neighboring European countries of Morocco.”
What affects the most is what happens closer. To not miss anything, subscribe.
All these preventive measures have not prevented the first positive of the omicron variant from being detected in Casablanca on December 15. Now, after the flights from Spain have been suspended for 23 days, the Moroccan authorities assure in their message on Monday that they “verified” that in Spain there is an “absence of specific control of the vaccination certificates of the travelers.”
Currently, Morocco only allows nationals and residents to leave the country on regular flights chartered by the national company Royal Air Maroc. As for return flights, it only authorizes specials from Portugal, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates until December 23. The Moroccan government has not clarified when it will resume return flights. With which, the Ryanair company chose to cancel all its trips until February 1. And thousands of Moroccans and residents of Morocco have been forced to spend Christmas or winter holidays in the country, as there is no scheduled date for return flights.
Morocco seems to have the pandemic under control, despite the fact that the number of infected has grown slightly in the last two weeks. Its highest level of infections was suffered on August 10, when it registered 9,153 new cases and 127 deaths. Last Monday only registered one death, 102 new infections and 1,509 active cases. And this Tuesday the numbers were increasing: four deaths, 381 new infections and 1,700 active cases. Year-end celebrations have been banned and a curfew has been announced between midnight on January 31 and 6:00 am on the first day of the year.
Despite the fact that the health situation seems under control, the country has seen its control over PCR tests and health certificates seriously questioned by Canada. The authorities of one of the countries with the highest number of Moroccan emigrants, from August 29, suspended flights from Morocco for two months. Previously, they had discovered dozens of cases of passengers with falsified COVID-19 certificates, who had passed through the controls of the airports on African territory without any problem.