Almost 1,200 Spaniards or residents in Spain they took this Sunday a chartered boat and plane within a special device for repatriation to the nearly 4,000 people who were stranded in Morocco when the Maghreb country closed its airspace with Spain on Tuesday for health reasons.
Balearia’s ship left the port of Tangier Med bound for Algeciras, with 800 passengers on board, shortly after 16:30 local time (one more in Spain) while almost at the same time a Iberia plane was carrying 348 passengers from Casablanca to Madrid.
The announcement of the suspension of flights with Spain – which was also extended to France – caught about 4,000 Spaniards who were on vacation in Morocco this Easter.
There were surfers who were in Dakhla, in the south of Western Sahara, adventurers in the dunes of Merzuga and even groups of trips organized in the middle of the circuit of the “imperial cities” that had to reschedule your return trips, in some cases advancing it, or in another delaying it.
As soon as the cancellation of flights was known, the Embassy of Spain began to negotiate with the Moroccan authorities extraordinary means of repatriation of its citizens, which have been materialized so far in two ships (the one from Balearia and another from Transmediterránea, next Tuesday) and a plane.
Iberia initially scheduled a 200-seat flight, but when noting the flood of demands, it changed aircraft for a Airbus 350, the largest capacity in its fleet, explained Juan Carlos Álvarez, general director for Africa, present at the Casablanca airport to supervise the operation.
Among the passengers on the plane, the general feeling was of relief, although all they regretted the amount of money that they had had to pay without planning to pay for new PCR tests, additional hotel nights or transportation to get to Casablanca on time.
“Imagine,” said Nicolás, a Madrid surfing fan, “this has cost me 400 euros in extra expenses, which is everything I had planned for my stay in Dakhla. “
And yet this Sunday’s flight it was nothing like the repatriation flights operated during 2020, also from the airport of Casablanca and the port of Tangier: then, “humanitarian” cases prevailed, of people with illnesses or expensive medical treatments, pregnant women or families separated by confinement.
On today’s trips, the dominant profile were Spaniards who moved to Morocco taking advantage of what is easier to travel abroad than within SpainAnd that Morocco until last week was putting the red carpet for European tourists just when its tourism sector, vital as a creator of jobs and provider of foreign exchange, was beginning to reap its head after a year of bankruptcy.
In Morocco, mobility restrictions are almost non-existent for the tourists, except for night curfews in all cities, and that has allowed the gradual return of travelers from Europe, where most of the visitors to the Maghreb country come from.
After the special chartered trips this Sunday, about 3,000 more Spaniards will remain in Morocco who are still stranded, for which new repatriation trips are being worked on in the coming days, as confirmed by sources from Balearia on Twitter and confirmed by sources from Iberia.
The closure of airspace with Spain and France -main providers of tourists and travelers to Morocco- was decided to prevent spread in the country of the new strains of the coronavirus, which derails the successful management that the country has had with the pandemic so far.
The total number of infected by Covid in Morocco has been 497,832 people, of which 8,842 have died; As for those vaccinated, 4.3 million people have received the first dose and 3.8 million the two doses.