Spanish enclaves in Morocco are finding their economies are getting worse

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‘Hand luggage’ Melilla
‘Hand luggage’ Melilla Credit: Stéphane M Grueso CC

WHILST Spanish unemployment appears to be getting better, the two Spanish enclaves in Morocco are finding their economies are getting worse.

For many years Ceuta and Melilla had relatively thriving economies due to the fact that they benefited from what is known as ‘atypical commerce’ whereby goods were shipped in from around the world.

They were then taken to the borders with Morocco where mainly women, who had access to cross the border, were paid to take large packages as ‘hand luggage’ into Morocco, avoiding import duties.

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From 2018, Morocco started to make it more difficult for this to happen and come the outbreak of the pandemic, borders were closed, meaning that a huge flow of income disappeared from both Ceuta and Melilla and this continues to the present day.

Each of the enclaves houses around 85,000 residents and it is reported by the World Politics Review that although about half of those employed work for the Spanish Government adult unemployment is now around 30 per cent in Ceuta and 20 per cent in Melilla.

The local economies used to thrive on import taxes (much lower than Morocco or Spain) on goods which soon found their way across the borders but this source of income has now disappeared.


The way forward seems to be either rapprochement between Morocco and Spain (which currently seems unlikely) or the possible incorporation of the two enclaves into the EU customs zone which would be likely to generate options for income.

Morocco isn’t just belligerent because of the ‘atypical commerce’ but because Spain still won’t recognise its rights to occupy the Western Sahara, which Spain moved out of in 1976.

Thank you for reading ’The two Spanish enclaves in Morocco are finding their economies are getting worse.’


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