For the second Friday in a row, the residents of Castillejos (Fnideq), a city in northern Morocco on the border with Ceuta, have taken to the streets to protest the living conditions left to them by the closure of the border almost a year ago because of the pandemic caused by the Covid-19 virus. The protesters gathered in front of the main mosque of the city, that of Mohamed V around six in the afternoon, where according to social networks thousands of people gathered, multiplying the number concerning the one that happened last Friday. February, which ended in riots when the police ordered to disband due to the arrival of the curfew.

As this media has been able to confirm, the protesters would have arrived from neighboring cities such as Tetuán, Martil, and Rincon. Until the closing of this information, the protesters were concentrated in the main square in a peaceful manner. They could be heard through the live channels that the assistants transmitted the cries asking for a solution that would allow the situation to be unblocked for the opening of the border. A large police device was prepared from the early hours of the morning in case there were disturbances as happened last week.

Young people in the north of Morocco are the most affected by the crisis who see how they have run out of opportunities to face their future and that even forces them to risk their lives to swim or in precarious boats to Ceuta. Many of these young people have not managed to arrive alive and others are missing. The laziness and abandonment of the Moroccan government with the northern cities since the beginning of the pandemic has ended the patience of a large part of the population of Castillejos.

The situation has become desperate for the inhabitants of a city that in two decades doubled its population thanks to the opportunities offered by the border. Of the 34,000 people who resided in the border city in 1994, the population doubled in 2014, almost reaching over 100,000 in 2018. Many of these people have returned to their places of residence, most to the south, faced with the impossibility of crossing the border to be able to work in Ceuta. I miss my father; he has not come to our house for a year, we want them to open the border for us,” read the banner held by a small child in the middle of the demonstration.


Castillejos and nearby towns have seen many businesses shut down in less than a year, impacting stores and cafeterias and ruining the hundreds of taxi drivers who were in charge of transferring people from the border to nearby towns and cities. The economy has plummeted and has “become a ghost town,” Sufian, a young electrician who has not worked since April last year, told us. Northern Morocco was mainly supplied by cross-border trade, atypical trade for Spain, and smuggling for Morocco. The Government promised last year the creation of an industrial and commercial-free zone, new business space in Castillejos is a strategy initiated by Rabat to end smuggling and offer an alternative to employment for the thousands of Moroccans who made their living with it. direct or indirect porting.

This project is part of the integrated program for the economic and social development of the Tetouan region and the employment of the Fnideq strait, which aims to reactivate investment to create employment opportunities and improve the economic and social conditions of the target population, especially women and youth. In October 2019, the Moroccan authorities unilaterally decided to end the “porter” (using people as mules to carry packages from Ceuta to the other side of the border), arguing that the measure would try to preserve the competitiveness of the national product against smuggling.

Thousands of people arriving from all parts of the country were left without income when the customs authorities prohibited the passage of goods through the Tarajal customs in Ceuta. All this has led to the decline of the economic and social conditions of a region whose prosperity has been linked for decades to the passage of goods that were introduced through the Bab Septa pass, the name given to the Moroccan side of the border with Spain in Ceuta.