Algeciras Port during a normal Operación Paso del Estrecho. / efe

Operation Crossing the Strait to resume now Spain's diplomatic crisis with Morocco has come to an end

This is the first time since 2019 that the three-month operation to ferry millions of people between the two countries has been able to take place as Moroccans in Europe return to their own country for a holiday

MELCHOR SÁIZ-PARDO Madrid

Operation Crossing the Strait is back. On Monday Spain's Ministry of the Interior gave the green light for this special operation, in which thousands of ferry passengers cross between Morocco and Europe, to resume. It was suspended in 2020 because of the pandemic and in 2021 due to the diplomatic crisis which occurred between Madrid and Rabat because the Spanish government allowed the leader of the Frente Polisario, Brahim Gali, to be treated in Spain for Covid.

The operation runs from 15 June to 15 September and thousands of people are needed to keep it running smoothly, including Customs and Port staff, police, Civil Protection volunteers and medical teams.

The government began to prepare for Operation Crossing the Strait when the Moroccan authorities confirmed a few days ago that all the ferries would be able to operate again very soon. Diplomatic relations improved between Spain and Morocco after prime minister Pedro Sánchez supported Rabat’s plan for autonomy for the western Sahara, which is seen as recognition of its sovereignty over the former Spanish colony.

More than three million passengers

This operation, which is known as Marhaba (Welcome) in Morocco, has been taking place since 1986 and is one of the busiest short-distance holiday journeys on the planet. In 2019, a total of 3,340,045 passengers and 760,215 vehicles crossed the Strait from Spanish ports.

Last year was particularly complicated for Moroccans in Europe who wanted to return to their own country for a holiday because it was not possible to travel from or to any Spanish port. It meant that they had to use the French ports of Sète and Marseilles and Genoa in Italy, which caused extremely long delays in getting back and involved much longer sea journeys.