The ordeal of cross-border workers in Ceuta and Melilla

Nawal (not his real name to protect his identity) crossing the border tarajal To work in Ceuta. 14 years ago Social Security contribution The Spaniard was only a few months away from turning 15 and getting his due. retirement allowance. His plans were cut short when the pandemic hit and the border froze in March 2020. “They forced us into unemployment for two years and they did not give us any help, neither from Spain nor Morocco, they let us down. need, homeless. Neither Social Security nor our bosses… nobody gave us anything,” explains this woman from Castillejos, Morocco.

More than two years of closure and diplomatic crisis between Rabat and Madrid, the borders of Ceuta and Melilla have been partially reopened. for now only Persons with EU passport anyone Schengen visa The road will be opened from midnight on May 31st. cross-border workers. The borders, which have been closed for two years, have turned the lives of thousands of people living in Morocco and working in Ceuta or Melilla upside down. First the closure hit them and they lost their jobs and now they don’t know when they will be able to cross over and work as before as they will reopen for them.

“Now new regulations are out, they say we need a regulation. consular visa you need to agree with your bosses to start work new papers to work, to send the documents to the consulate for later entry. And this, I’m sorry, but this is not possibleNawal said, “At least, he complains that they let us enter with our passports so that we can claim our rights. So we can see our bosses, if they hire us, we will continue to work, and if they don’t want us, at least we can claim our rights there. give us what they owe these two years and the years we contributed to Social Security,” this woman claims.

doubts and rumors

There are more doubts and rumors than certainties on the street and in coffee chats. Many cross-border workers currently do not have the necessary documents and permits to pass, because expired in 2020 with closure. According to Chakib Marouan, Ceuta border workers general secretary, Moroccan Workers’ UnionFor now, only about 140 people, or about 3,600 in total, are allowed to enter Ceuta this Tuesday.

“We ask the Spanish and Moroccan authorities to only allow workers who have a card before it closes to access Ceuta cross and give them a pass. a quarterly margin to be able to arrange the papers” explains the union representative. Now they can only obtain pass permits from workers whose employers have continued to pay Social Security for the past two years and who have submitted different documents in recent weeks to process and pass the visa. “The problem is that many employers have laid off their workers,” explains Marouan.

Paso del Tarajal with the autonomous city of Ceuta in the background. MARC FERRA


For workers who are no longer registered with Social Security, they must restart the process and go through the State Public Employment Agency (formerly INEM). This could lead to the rejection of hiring these people, “because INEM, if we already have cleaners or waiters here, why do you have to hire them from Morocco?” He will say. Some of these workers had contributed to Social Security for more than 20 years. There are even people who collect their pensions but have no way of withdrawing money from Spanish banks without accessing Ceuta.

“The rights that exist in Spain must be applied here as well (Ceuta). Here we work on our own, pay our taxes and contribute to Social Security. same rights and interests rather than the peninsula,” argues Nawal. This cross-border worker assures that there are no jobs in Castillejos. “It has always been tied to the border, to trading, to cross-border contracts… Now there is nothing, it is a blockade. And if there’s nothing to live for, what do we do? Are we leaving or are we dying? We have to find a solution so that we can live with our recognized rights and regulate our situation just like they did on the peninsula,” he adds.

Two years without seeing his family

Rachida Jraifi, spokesperson for the cross-border workers’ group stranded in Ceuta, is experiencing the opposite of her Moroccan colleagues, but the same uncertainty. With the arrival of the epidemic, he was locked in Ceuta. He lived in Morocco and worked in the autonomous city: “We thought the shutdown would take 15 days or a month, but it took two years and three months,” he says. He also explains that all this time he tried to return to Morocco, but that was not possible. For now, he’s still in Ceuta and doesn’t know if he’ll be crossing the road soon to get home.

Rachida explains that he now has a valid contract, but now that the border has been closed, his cross-border permit, which must be renewed every year, expires, making it easy for them to move from one side to the other. He explains that in order to obtain this permission, they requested different documents, which he could not process because he could not return to Morocco or go to the administration that supplied him with the documents. Also, he meets expired passport and “we can’t do anything without it”. He lives with the uncertainty of not knowing when he will be able to return to Ceuta if he decides to go to Morocco without renewing his cross-border card.

This woman is also their two years deprived of many rights During the closing in Ceuta. Despite your contribution, for many procedures Work permit. You cannot renew your document without this permission. health card. “When we went to the clinic, they told us that we do not have the right to family medicine with an expired card. Do you think they can tell me this by paying SGK?” ‘ Rachida asks angrily.

Source: Informacion

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