After two years of closure, the Bab Sebta crossing point was opened to the movement of people on Monday, May 16, to the delight of the inhabitants and traders of Fnideq, in its surroundings, and those of Sebta, some of whom did not not seen their families since the start of the health crisis in the Kingdom.
The highly anticipated reopening of the Bab Sebta crossing marks the beginning of a new era in Moroccan-Spanish relations. The two partners decided to put an end to smuggling in Sebta and Melilla, which irrigated the local economy of the region of Fnideq and M’diq, but deprived Moroccan customs of significant revenue which is counted in billions of dirhams. It is therefore the end of mule women», the images of which shocked not only Moroccans, but also foreigners and conveyed a bad image of Morocco.
Although the return of smuggling of all kinds to this region is very unlikely, according to observers, a number of professionals who practiced smuggling in the past are now convinced of the need to s engage in alternative economic activities that would provide them with a dignified source of income. This is in any case the direction taken by a group of women who practiced smuggling in the two crossing points of Sebta and Melilla questioned byMoroccoLatestNews.
Aged 62, Thamimont Boughateen, one of the beneficiaries of the autoentrepreneur project financing, worked for forty years as a “conveyor» contraband goods (shoes and blankets) at the Beni Ansar crossing point, for the benefit of smugglers. Today, she owns a shop where she sells foodstuffs, and no longer intends to return to this former life of “mule womenas they are called.
“I don’t deny that my work on the way gave me a financial income, but it was hard and humiliating work at the same time. My colleagues and I have been repeatedly insulted by the Spanish civil police. It is also risky work. We risk falling or being crushed because of the jostling between the conveyors. We even passed out several times, especially when the doors are suddenly closed by the Spanish or Moroccan authorities», confides Thamimont.
This Moroccan woman also remembered with regret the practices of the Spanish Civil Guard which did not miss the opportunity to reverse the goods of the “conveyors“, who were only responsible for delivering them to the other side of the border for the benefit of the smugglers, in return for a mediocre salary, in addition to the degrading treatment reserved for them. The sexagenarian from the north thus hopes not to return to this time which contributed to harming her health.
Same story from the side of a widow, mother of three, who worked for years transporting goods through the busy crossing points of Melilla. On the microphone of MoroccoLatestNews, she confirmed that her work at the crossing point “had caused him chronic knee and back pain, in addition to diabetes“.
To escape humiliation, the women involved two years ago in smuggling in the two occupied enclaves of Melilla and Bab Sebta, have now embarked on various economic activities, particularly commercial and artisanal work such as sewing. Others have benefited from employment opportunities at used clothing recycling factories in Beni Ansar near the border.
From 2018, the Moroccan side gradually began to crack down on smugglers of goods at the level of Sebta and Melilla, which was officially confirmed by the Director General of the Administration of Customs and Indirect Taxes, Nabil Lakhdar, in February 2019 in Parliament, noting that the permanent ban on smuggling from the two ports will last around 5 to 10 years, before the Covid pandemic accelerates it in less than two years.
The smuggling of means of subsistence, according to Nabil Lakhdar, costs the public treasury an estimated loss of 300 billion centimes per year, not counting the passage of Melilla. For him, this explains Morocco’s tendency to abolish economic dependence on these two cities.