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Wednesday, 8 June 2016 12:00 AM

Entry Into Morocco from Spain

We have had a number of customers over the years requesting holiday itineraries that take them into the heart of Morocco, entering from Spain by ferry across the strait of Gibraltar. We have talked before about getting to Morocco by train overland and finally by ferry, and this is simply a variation on that theme with some time spent in Spain beforehand. Entering into Tangier allows an easy route to Tetouan and on to the beautiful blue painted Moroccan town of Chefchaouen.

However, it is important to note that Spanish – Moroccan relationships are sometimes a little frayed and the border between the two is occasionally closed temporarily as tempers are raised. Closures are usually short-lived and we can normally work round delays in arrivals. I wish to stress that closures are infrequent/very rare.

We give a little background to the issue below.

Spanish Influence in Morocco

Since the 1800s Spain (and also France, although they now no longer have any territorial hold) has exercised some control within Morocco.

In 1860 rising tensions over the Spanish enclave of Cueta, an area on the Strait of Gibraltar, led to Spain declaring war in the region. The war was short-lived and led to the expansion of the enclave (around 18.5 square kilometres) and the winning of a second enclave of Melilla (around 12.3 square kilometres) that lies further East on the Mediterranean coast (towards the Moroccan city of Oujda).

In 1904 the Spanish and French governments carved out zones of influence in Morocco, which were formalised in 1912 by the creation of Spanish and French protectorates (the French protectorate was created first and covered much of the land of modern Morocco, the Spanish protectorate was delegated by the French and consisted of a strip on the Mediterranean and a zone close to the Spanish Sahara); however, when the protectorates ended at Moroccan independence (2 March 1956) Spain kept its two enclaves – Cueta and Melilla

Since Moroccan independence the Spanish enclaves have been a source of tension, further heightened by issues around the Western Sahara and the island of Perejil – an uninhabited island 200m off the Moroccan shore in the Strait of Gibraltar, occupied at times by up to a dozen Moroccan soldiers as an observation post.

Spain has continued to show its support for the two city enclaves, much as Britain does with Gibraltar. In 2006 the Spanish Premier Zapatero visited the enclaves (the first such visit for around 25 years) and in 2007 the Spanish King Juan Carlos did a similar visit.

There have been several failed attempts at creating negotiations between the two countries over the enclaves and island, and Moroccans often demand the return of Cueta and Melilla, but inhabitants of the enclaves have shown in recent polls to be around 90% in support of staying under Spanish rule and there is no sign of being returned to Morocco.

The enclaves have at times seen significant incursion by illegal immigrants to Europe, crossing the border from Morocco, which the Moroccan authorities have tried to stop, but tensions flare at times between the close neighbours.