Huge Europe-Morocco Migration Begins After COVID-19 Hiatus

Morocco, a North African country bordering the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, is distinguished by its Berber, Arabian and European cultural influences.
Morocco, a North African country bordering the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, is distinguished by its Berber, Arabian and European cultural influences.

 

Morocco on Sunday begins welcoming an influx of its citizens living in Europe after the pandemic led to a halt in what has been called one of the world’s biggest cross-continental migrations.

The last such effort in the summer of 2019 saw 3.3 million people and more than three quarters of a million vehicles cross the Gibraltar Strait.

The North African kingdom is just 14 kilometres (nine miles) from the coast of Spain, which has announced it will also put in place special measures for Moroccans from June 15 for two months.

Spain’s government has called the seasonal migration “one of the biggest flows of people across continents in such a small time”.

Resuming large-scale cross-strait travel comes not only after an easing of the pandemic threat but also following a mending of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

The year-long diplomatic dispute had extended border closures originally put in place because of Covid-19, but maritime traffic resumed in April.

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“Operation Marhaba (Welcome) for Moroccans living overseas begins on June 5,” said a statement late Saturday from the Mohammed V Solidarity Foundation which organises the effort.

More than 1,000 people including doctors, social workers and volunteers have signed up to help people arriving at ports and airports.

Most will come by boat from Spain.

As well as at Moroccan ports, helpers will be stationed in the Spanish ports of Almeria and Algeciras, Marseille in France and Italy’s Genoa, among others.

The traffic goes in both directions, as many Moroccans also head to Spanish coastal resorts for their holidays.

Spain, Morocco To Re-Open Enclave Land Borders On Tuesday

File photo: Commuters wearing face masks sit on a train at the Atocha Station in Madrid on April 13, 2020 . JAVIER SORIANO / AFP.

 

Madrid and Rabat have agreed to re-open the land borders between Morocco and two Spanish enclaves on Tuesday, Spain’s interior minister said Thursday.

The move helps draw a line under a major diplomatic standoff on the back of coronavirus restrictions that together closed the crossings for two years.

Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said the two countries had agreed to open the land borders with Ceuta and Melilla gradually from May 17.

Crossings will be initially limited to residents of Europe’s passport-free Schengen area and their family members, and will then be expanded to cross-border workers after May 31, he told reporters in Madrid.

Ceuta and Melilla have the European Union’s only land borders with Africa.

The local economies on both sides of the borders depend on the crossing of people and goods.

The borders became the focus of a major dispute last year when Madrid allowed the leader of a Western Saharan independence movement to be treated for Covid-19 in a Spanish hospital.

Ten thousand migrants surged across the Moroccan border into Ceuta as local border forces looked the other way, in what was widely seen as a punitive gesture by Rabat.

In March, Spain moved to end the diplomatic crisis with Morocco by removing its decades-long stance of neutrality and backing the kingdom’s autonomy plan for the Western Sahara, which Rabat insists must remain under its sovereignty.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez visited King Mohammed VI in early April.

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares had announced on Wednesday that the borders would reopen “in the coming days” without specifying a date.

WCQ: Tissoudali’s Brilliant Goal Gives Morocco Advantage Over DR Congo

 

 

Tarik Tissoudali scored a brilliant equaliser as Morocco moved closer to a sixth World Cup appearance by drawing 1-1 with the Democratic Republic of Congo in Kinshasa on Friday.  

A move that began with a superb slide tackle by Moroccan defender Romain Saiss ended with Tissoudali rifling the ball into the net on 76 minutes in the first leg of their play-off.

Yoane Wissa had given  DR Congo a 12th-minute lead, sprinting down the wing, cutting inside, and unleashing a shot from just outside the box that brushed Saiss and beat goalkeeper Yassine Bounou.

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With away goals counting double if teams finish level on aggregate, a 0-0 draw in Casablanca on Tuesday would take Morocco to the World Cup in Qatar.

Morocco were unsettled after falling behind and Cedric Bakambu and Dieumerci Mbokani wasted chances to put the Congolese further ahead lead on a gloomy and windy evening.

The visitors squandered an early second-half chance to equalise when Ryan Mmaee blazed a penalty over the crossbar.

DR Congo were reduced to 10 men with five minutes remaining when Ngonda Muzinga was sent off after being yellow-carded twice. He will miss the return match.

Later on Friday, Cameroon, Mali, Egypt and Ghana have home advantage over Algeria, Tunisia, Senegal, and Nigeria respectively in other first legs.

AFP

Morocco Drivers Strike Over Fuel Price Spike

Moroccan truck and taxi drivers are observing a three-day strike in protest at spiraling fuel costs, a union said Tuesday, as oil prices spike over Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Around three quarters of drivers are observing the strike, said Mounir Benazouz of the SNPTR truckers’ union.

Four other unions have also joined the action which ends Wednesday.

“We are calling on the government to put a ceiling on fuel prices and the profit margins of distributors, because the situation is becoming more and more critical,” Benazouz said.

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He added that the strike could be extended unless the government responds.

The transport ministry did not immediately reply to AFP’s request for comment.

The government of Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch has for weeks been facing growing unrest over mounting living costs, with price hikes on fuel and other essential goods sparking demonstrations across the North African kingdom.

Inflation, spurred by rising global commodities prices, topped three percent year-on-year in January, prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Moroccan farmers are also suffering the effects of a long drought which has battered a sector that contributes about 14 percent of gross domestic product.

AFP

Super Falcons Beat Cote D’Ivoire To Qualify For 2022 Africa Women’s Cup Of Nations

File Photo of the Super Falcons.

 

Nigeria have qualified for this year’s Women’s Africa Cup of Nations holding in Morocco after the Super Falcons produced a brave performance to defeat the Lady Elephants of Cote D’Ivoire 1-0 in Abidjan.

The result secured an aggregate 3-0 win for the nine-time African champions following Wednesday’s win.  The hosts threw all they had in the return leg encounter at the Stade Robert Champroux but met an unshakable Nigerian defence and an inspired goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie who was outstanding.

Coach Randy Waldrum made two changes to the starting line-up from the first leg, bringing in midfielder Regina Otu and forward Francisca Ordega. The lively Ordega thought she had given Nigeria the lead halfway into the first period but the Nigerien referee ruled it out.

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In the 34th minute, Nigerien referee Zouwaira Souley awarded a penalty to the homers after judging that Ashleigh Plumptre had tripped an Ivorian striker in the Nigerian area. Goalkeeper Nnadozie saved the shot, and the contact from the same player off the rebound went into the side-netting.

The Super Falcons dug their feet into the ground in the second half, refusing to give the Lady Elephants any leeway. Plumptre, Captain Onome Ebi, Osinachi Ohale, and Michelle Alozie all held their ground as the Elephants increased their onslaughts.

A minute to the end, Esther Okoronkwo, winning only her second cap for Nigeria, scored the back-breaker that confirmed a 3-0 aggregate win for the Super Falcons. Victory and qualification for Morocco 2022 was sweet revenge over the Ivorian ladies who stopped the Falcons from qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Ex-Moroccan Minister Jailed After ‘Adultery’ Video

Morocco, a North African country bordering the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, is distinguished by its Berber, Arabian and European cultural influences.
Morocco, a North African country bordering the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, is distinguished by its Berber, Arabian, and European cultural influences.

 

A Moroccan former rights minister who became an outspoken government critic was sentenced to three years in prison on Wednesday on a string of charges, his lawyer said.

Mohamed Ziane, 79, had gone on trial last year after he accused the kingdom’s security services of faking a video purporting to show him in a compromising situation with a married woman in a hotel room.

The video caused a scandal, but Ziane accused the head of the police and Morocco’s domestic security forces, Abdelatif Hammouchi, of faking the footage.

The interior ministry in January last year filed a complaint accusing him of criminally “disseminating false accusations”.

READ ALSO: Moroccans Protest Against High Prices For Basic Goods

A Rabat court on Wednesday “sentenced Mr Ziane to three years in prison and a fine of 5,000 dirhams (about $530)”, lawyer Amal Khalfi told AFP.

But she added that “we don’t yet know the details of the verdict. We don’t know which charges were upheld”.

Ziane remains at liberty pending an appeal, she said.

The former minister had told AFP in December that he faced a total of 11 charges, including “contempt of public officials and the judiciary”, defamation, adultery, and sexual harassment.

He said the charges against him were political.  Ziane was a prominent government lawyer in the early 1990s and human rights minister between 1995 and 1996.

But in recent years, he has become a prominent critic of authorities, particularly the security services.

AFP

Moroccans Protest Against High Prices For Basic Goods


Moroccans raise placards as they gather in front of parliament in the capital Rabat to protest against rising prices, on February 20, 2022. STR / AFP

 

Protests broke out in several Moroccan cities on Sunday as people rallied against rising prices and to commemorate the eleventh anniversary of demonstrations that called for reform. 

In the capital Rabat, dozens of protesters decried the high cost of basic goods and shouted slogans harking back to the “February 20 Movement”, an AFP correspondent said.

The pro-reform and anti-corruption movement was born out of the Arab Spring uprisings that rocked the Middle East in 2011.

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A Moroccan man raises a placard as he takes part in a protest against rising prices, in front of the parliament in the capital Rabat, on February 20, 2022. STR / AFP

 

Dozens also rallied in Casablanca and Tangiers, according to videos posted on social media.

Drought has hurt the country’s economy and Moroccans are also feeling the pinch from high fuel prices.

Some 3.8 billion dirhams (over $400 million) is needed for flour subsidies alone in 2022, according to an economy ministry official.

AFP

Morocco Reopens Airspace After 2-Month COVID-19 Shutdown

Morocco, a North African country bordering the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, is distinguished by its Berber, Arabian and European cultural influences.
Morocco, a North African country bordering the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, is distinguished by its Berber, Arabian and European cultural influences.

 

Morocco reopened its airspace on Monday in a bid to breathe life into its crisis-hit tourism sector, two months after it cancelled commercial flights over coronavirus fears.

The North African kingdom’s latest move was welcomed by tourism businesses who have suffered two lost years due to the pandemic, as well as by Moroccans stranded abroad.

Passengers heading to the kingdom will still need to show proof of vaccination against the Covid-19 illness and a negative PCR test within the past 48 hours, the government said in a statement.

On arrival, they will undergo further rapid tests and some will be chosen at random for another PCR test, it said.

It also warned tourists of “the possibility of an additional test at their hotel or place of residence 48 hours after their entry into the country”, with positive cases obliged to self-isolate.

READ ALSO: Funeral Starts For Moroccan Boy Rayan Who Died In Well

Morocco’s vital tourism sector has been battered by the pandemic and ensuing travel restrictions, with a 71 percent drop in arrivals in 2021 compared to 2019 and some eight billion euros in losses.

Authorities have vowed to launch a promotional campaign for “destination Morocco” and say they are working with airlines to relaunch the sector.

Rabat has also laid out a more than 180-million-euro campaign to keep jobs and firms in the sector on life support — but many say the funds are not enough.

Morocco Buries Little Rayan Who Died Trapped In Well

Moroccan security forces form a human chain to contain the crowd as the ambulance carrying the body of five-year-old Rayan Oram who fell into a well shaft on February 1, leaves the scene in the remote village of Ighrane in the rural northern province of Chefchaouen, late on February 5, 2022.  (Photo by Fadel SENNA / AFP)

 

Moroccans on Monday attended the funeral of Rayan, a five-year-old boy who spent five days trapped down a well, sparking a vast rescue operation that gripped the world but ended in tragedy.

The boy had fallen down a narrow, 32-metre (100-foot) dry well last Tuesday, sparking a complex earth-moving operation to try to reach him without triggering a landslide.

Well-wishers had flooded social media with messages of sympathy and prayers that he would be brought out alive, but their hopes were dashed.

On Saturday night, crowds had cheered as rescue workers cleared away the final handfuls of soil to reach him, after the marathon digging operation in the village of Ighrane in northern Morocco’s impoverished Rif mountains.

But the joy turned to grief when the royal cabinet of the North African nation announced that the boy was dead.

King Mohammed VI called the parents to voice his condolences.

The child’s body was taken to a military hospital in the capital Rabat, accompanied by his parents.

On Monday it was transported to the Douar Zaouia cemetary near his village, where hundreds of mourners attended his funeral, AFP journalists said.

– Nation in shock –

Rayan’s father Khaled Aourram said he had been repairing the well when his son fell in, close to the family home.

The shaft, just 45 centimetres (18 inches) across, was too narrow for Rayan to be reached directly, and widening it was deemed too risky — so earth movers dug a wide slope into the hill.

Rescue crews, using bulldozers and front-end loaders, excavated the surrounding red earth down to the level where the boy was trapped, before drill teams carefully dug a horizontal tunnel to reach him from the side to avoid causing a landslide.

Vast crowds came to offer their support, singing and praying to encourage the rescuers who worked around the clock.

But the boy’s death left Moroccans in shock.

Mourad Fazoui in Rabat mourned what he said was a disaster. “May his soul rest in peace and may God open the gates of heaven to him,” the salesman said.

The Arabic daily newspaper Assabah criticised the digging of unauthorised wells, saying many were used to irrigate cannabis widely grown in Morocco’s north.

Social media across the Arab world were flooded with messages of support, grief, and praise for rescue workers.

“He has brought people together around him,” one Twitter user said.

But one deplored a “dystopian world” where “Arab nations are moved” by the Morocco rescue operation for the child while vast numbers of infants die in conflict or famine in Yemen and Syria.

Morocco In Shock After Tragic Death Of ‘Little Rayan’

People (top) watch as Moroccan emergency services teams work on the rescue of five-year-old boy Rayan from a well shaft he fell into on February 1, in the remote village of Ighrane in the rural northern province of Chefchaouen on February 5, 2022. (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

 

Morocco was in shock Sunday after emergency crews found a five-year-old boy dead at the bottom of a well in a tragic end to a painstaking five-day rescue operation that gripped the nation and the world.

The ordeal of “little Rayan” since he fell down the well on Tuesday afternoon gained global attention and sparked an outpouring of sympathy online, with the Arabic hashtag #SaveRayan trending.

Throughout the operation to extricate him from the bottom of the 32-metre (100-foot) well shaft, authorities had cautioned that they did not know whether he was alive.

And reflecting the emotions provoked by the drama, it was Morocco’s royal cabinet that announced he had been found dead.

“Following the tragic accident which cost the life of the child Rayan Oram, His Majesty King Mohammed VI called the parents of the boy who died after falling down the well,” a statement from the royal court said.

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By mid-afternoon Saturday, rescue crews, using bulldozers and front-end loaders, had excavated the surrounding red earth down to the level where the boy was trapped, and drill teams began creating a horizontal tunnel to reach him from the side.

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But progress slowed to a snail’s pace as the drill teams worked by hand to avoid any vibrations that might bring the brittle soil down on the stricken child, local authorities said.

AFP correspondents saw the boy’s parents walk down the slope into the horizontal tunnel, visibly crushed, before returning and boarding an ambulance without saying a word.

After a period of confusion, a crowd of onlookers began dispersing in sombre silence.

The family was yet to announce the date of the funeral, but according to Muslim tradition it must take place soon, in principle as early as Sunday.
– ‘So tragic’ –

Tributes poured in in the wake of the news that the rescue efforts had failed to recover Rayan alive.

“I want to say to the family of little Rayan and to the Moroccan people that we share your pain,” French President Emmanuel Macron said on Facebook.

“Rayan’s courage will stay in our memories and continue to inspire us,” wrote AC Milan’s Algerian midfielder Ismael Bennacer in a tweet accompanied by a drawing of a child being lifted into the sky, carried by a heart-shaped balloon marked with the colours of Morocco.

“We all of us had been holding out hope that little Rayan would make it,” Moroccan-American novelist Laila Lalami wrote on Twitter. “This is all so tragic.”

– Race against time –

Thousands of people had gathered and even camped in solidarity around the site in recent days, where AFP reporters have said the tension has been palpable.

Some had applauded to encourage the rescuers, sang religious songs or prayed, chanting in unison “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest).

Workers had tried to get oxygen and water down to the child but it was not clear whether he was able to use them, AFP correspondents reported.

“I keep up hope that my child will get out of the well alive,” Rayan’s father had told public television 2M on Friday evening. “I thank everyone involved and those supporting us in Morocco and elsewhere.”

He said earlier in the week that he had been repairing the well when the boy fell in.

The shaft, just 45 centimetres (18 inches) across, was too narrow for the boy to be reached directly, and widening it was deemed too risky — so earth-movers dug a wide slope into the hill to reach him from the side.

The operation made the landscape resemble a construction site, and red-helmeted civil defence personnel had at times been suspended by rope, as if on a cliff face.

Overnight they worked non-stop under powerful floodlights that gave a gloomy air to the scene.

CAF Sanctions Egypt, Morocco After AFCON Quarter-Final ‘Fight’

CAF

 

 

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has suspended several Egyptian and Moroccan players and dished out fines after their Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final ended in a “fight”.

The sanctions fell Wednesday, on the eve of Egypt’s date with hosts Cameroon in the semi-finals after a locker room brawl following Sunday’s 2-1 win against Morocco.

The seven-time winners will be missing assistant coach Rogerio De Sa and left-back Marwan Daoud for the game in Yaounde.

The pair picked up match suspensions starting Wednesday, CAF said.

Trouble began after “altercations between Egypt assistant coach Rogerio Paulo Dos Santos Cesar De Sa and the President of the Moroccan FA Mr. Fouzi Lekjaa,” CAF said in a statement from their Cairo HQ.

“A general fight followed in which Morocco player Sofiane Boufal and Egypt player Marwan Mostafa Daoud were identified,” the CAF said.

Daoud’s suspension came due to “his violent conduct” while Rogerio De Sa’s was because of “using an obscene gesture”.

CAF also suspended Moroccan players Soufian Chakla and Soufiane Boufal for “violent behaviour”. That rules the pair out of Morocco’s World Cup play-off game against the Democratic Republic of Congo in March.

The confederation imposed a fine of $10,000 on the Moroccan Federation and $25,000 on the Egyptian Football Association.

It also imposed an additional $100,000 fine ($50,000 suspended) on Egypt for breaching the Cup of Nations’ media protocols and directives when failing to honour their pre-match press conference commitment.

Egypt Beat Morocco To Reach Africa Cup Of Nations Semi-Finals

Egypt’s players celebrate their second goal during the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 quarter-final football match between Egypt and Morocco at Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo in Yaounde on January 30, 2022. (Photo by Kenzo Tribouillard / AFP)

 

Mohamed Salah inspired Egypt to a place in the Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals on Sunday as the record seven-time champions came from behind to defeat Morocco 2-1 in extra time in Yaounde.

Sofiane Boufal’s early penalty put Morocco in front in the last-eight tie but skipper Salah equalised for Egypt early in the second half and then made the winner for Mahmoud Trezeguet 10 minutes into extra time.

Egypt will play hosts Cameroon in the semi-finals in Yaounde on Thursday.

Morocco took a 3-2 lead with one match drawn into the seventh showdown between the north African giants in the marquee African tournament.

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Coaches Vahid Halilhodzic of Morocco and Carlos Queiroz of Egypt made two changes each after last-16 victories over Malawi and the Ivory Coast respectively.

Aymen Barkok was introduced on the right side of the Moroccan midfield in place of Imran Louza and forward Munir el Haddadi replaced injured Ayoub el Kaabi.

Star Egypt goalkeeper Mohamed Elshenawy failed to recover from an injury incurred against the Ivorians and Mohamed Abou Gabal took his place.

Midfielder Hamdy Fathy was also ruled out and Ayman Ashraf, normally a defender, came in with Queiroz conscious of the threat posed when Morocco right-back Achraf Hakimi drifts forward.

It took Hakimi just three minutes to make a major impact as Ashraf failed to connect with the ball and fouled the Paris Saint-Germain star, leading to a penalty after a VAR monitor check by the referee.

After fluffing a penalty against the Comoros, Morocco changed takers, and Boufal did not let the Atlas Lions down, slotting his kick into the right corner as Abou Gabal dived in the opposite direction.

The last time Egypt fell behind in the tournament, against Nigeria in their opening group match, they failed to equalise and had to settle for second place behind the Super Eagles in the final standings.

– Desperate to atone –

Desperate to atone for conceding the penalty, Ashraf brought a great two-hand parried save out of Morocco goalkeeper Yassine ‘Bono’ Bounou midway through the opening half.

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Egyptian defenders were not shy to shoot from long range and Ahmed Fatouh tested Bounou, with the Sevilla shot-stopper once again proving equal to the task of preventing an equaliser.

Hakimi, who scored a brilliant match-winning goal direct from a free-kick against Malawi at the same ground five days ago, got a set-piece opportunity not far from the box, but fired wide.

Queiroz, the former Real Madrid manager and twice assistant to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, was constantly agitated and both the referee and the fourth official spoke to him.

The first half ended with Morocco retaining their one-goal advantage, and not much seen of Egypt captain and talisman Salah, with the Liverpool star seeking his second goal of the tournament.

Egypt replaced injured defender Ahmed Hegazy with Trezeguet at half-time and the Aston Villa forward was narrowly wide with a snap shot just four minutes into the second half.

Morocco were under the cosh and assertive Egypt levelled on 53 minutes as Salah tapped in from close range after Bounou could only parry a Mohamed Abdelmonem header off a corner.

Tempers boiled over minutes from time after Hakimi objected to being fouled by Mostafa Mohamed, triggering pushing from the teams and both players were booked by the overworked referee.

As Morocco gradually regained the ascendancy, Abou Gabal rescued Egypt, pushing a Nayef Aguerd header on to the underside of the crossbar, and with no further goals the match went to extra time.

Egypt went ahead on 100 minutes when three Moroccan defenders failed to stop Salah, whose cross was turned in at the far post by Trezeguet.