President of Spanish-occupied Ceuta surfs on wave of anti-Moroccan sentiments

President of Spanish-occupied Ceuta surfs on wave of anti-Moroccan sentiments

Faithful to a far-right discourse pinning troubles on the “Other”, president of Spanish-occupied Ceuta, Juan Vivas of VOX party used the fear of migrants to diabolize Morocco.

Speaking from a city in northern Morocco though occupied by Spain, Vivas criticized the sovereign decisions taken by Morocco to manage the flow of goods on the borders between Ceuta and the rest of the North African kingdom.

“Rabat took a series of measures to undermine two autonomous Spanish cities,” he said in a total disregard for Morocco’s sovereignty over control of its borders.
He afterwards moved to play on the favorite chord of far-right groups blaming troubles in the occupied city on migrants and what he called laxism by Moroccan authorities.

“It is shameful to see Spain assign the task of curbing migratory flows to Morocco,” he said.

Vivas requested intervention of the central government in Madrid saying the situation in Ceuta was untenable due to “pressure by Sub-Saharan migrants including minors.”

His statements reflect fear about the untenable occupation of the city which has become more of a liability to mainland Spain.

A tinder box

From smuggling to illegal immigration and extremism, Ceuta- which Moroccans call Sebta- has become a time bomb waiting to explode and often plaguing Moroccan-Spanish ties.

The gray economic activity, detrimental to Moroccan custom revenues and beneficial to Spanish businesses, has made queues a normal scene on the borders with thousands of women especially carrying smuggled goods everyday.

The daily humiliation of Moroccan women on the border who earn their living through smuggling goods on their fragile backs has for long been subject of outcry in Morocco.

The need for an economic alternative would necessarily go through stemming such grey activity and help women to switch from smuggling to decent jobs.

The women smugglers, also called “mules”, are estimated at some 3,500 who daily cross the border carrying goods ranging from blankets to foodstuff and cosmetics. Some 200 minors also cross daily the Bab Sebta border post, carrying heavy bales of goods and packages on their backs for merchants and retailers in Northern Morocco.

Stampedes by the past cost many lives as thousands line up in an unshaded alley.


Morocco has for long ignored the impact of such smuggling which seems low scale at first although the aggregated impact results in numerous job losses in Moroccan industrial fabric and revenue losses.

The Moroccan economy loses up to 12.5 billion dirhams annually to smuggling originating from the Spanish occupied cities of Ceuta and Melilla while Spain gains 700 million euros in profits.

Moroccan MPs have called recently for the setting up of a Free Trade Zone (FTZ) in the northern town of Fnideq in a bid to combat the smuggling of goods and end the ordeal of the “mule women”, stressing the need to set up economic alternatives in the provinces of Tetouan and M’diq-Fnideq.

The call came in a report released after a parliamentary fact-finding mission on the situation of “mule women”

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