‘We are lost!’: Thousands of tourists stranded as Morocco cuts links to Europe amid coronavirus

‘We are lost!’: Thousands of tourists stranded as Morocco cuts links to Europe amid coronavirus
‘We are lost!’: Thousands of tourists stranded as Morocco cuts links to Europe amid coronavirus

Morocco suspends air, sea and land links with European countries and Algeria, causing panic in tourism sector

MEE and agencies
Sat, 03/14/2020 – 19:32

Passengers wait for flights at Tangier Ibn Battuta Airport in northern Morocco on 14 March (AFP)

Thousands of tourists were stranded in Morocco on Saturday after the kingdom suddenly announced strict border restrictions in response to the coronavirus, leaving travellers stuck at borders, ports and airports.

“We are lost!” said David, an Italian tourist waiting at the closed border with the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in northern Morocco, as quoted by AFP.

Morocco suspended air, sea and land links with European countries and Algeria on Friday, as well as taking measures to confine citizens to prevent the spread of coronavirus. On Saturday, it suspended flights to and from another 25 countries, the foreign ministry said, extending the earlier ban that covered China, Spain, Italy, France and Algeria, according to Reuters.

Other countries with which air travel is now suspended are Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chad, Denmark, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Jordan, Lebanon, Mali, Mauritania, Netherlands, Niger, Norway, Oman, Portugal, Senegal, Switzerland, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey and the UAE.

The travel restrictions are causing panic in the kingdom’s tourism sector, which accounts for 10 percent of GDP and is a key source of foreign revenue.

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Sea links for passengers and Morocco’s land borders with Ceuta and a second Spanish enclave, Melilla, were closed.

Still, France announced that Rabat had agreed to allow repatriation flights for French nationals.

“Thousands of French were in Morocco when the decision was taken to stop flights to France. It’s a very difficult situation,” Helene Le Gal, France’s ambassador to Morocco, said in a video posted on Twitter.

French television stations and social media showed hundreds of people at Marrakesh airport with no flights available and nowhere to go.

Videos recorded on Saturday at Marrakesh airport showed dozens of stranded passengers, some chanting: “Macron, a plane!”

“New flights are being organised to enable return to France,” President Emmanuel Macron tweeted on Saturday in response.

Le Gal said the embassy had received about 6,000 calls in the last 24 hours and added that the government was trying to find alternative routes to get people out of Morocco and accommodation for those with nowhere to stay.

Alexandra Katz, a French tourist whose plane to Paris was cancelled on Saturday, said she and other nationals would spend the night at the airport until a solution was found. “I saw a mother prepare a place to sleep on the floor for her two kids. We are abandoned to our fate here,” she told Reuters.

The closure of the only land border between Africa and the European Union at Cueta and Melilla saw Spaniards rushing to leave on Thursday evening, as Moroccan day workers hastily returned in the opposite direction.

The land borders are busiest in summer and the border sees regular traffic throughout the year. Now, a Moroccan police roadblock bars the road towards the border with Cueta.

David, the Italian tourist, said he tried to go to Spain because links with Italy, a hotspot of the disease, were suspended.

After arriving in Morocco for a motorcycle tour with his partner earlier this month, the 33-year-old Italian was stuck at a service station outside Cueta. 

The border at Cueta, like that at Melilla, was reopened Friday only for Spaniards. 

The Spanish embassy in Morocco tweeted on Saturday that ferries were still operating between the enclaves and mainland Spain.

People wait to cross Spanish border with Morocco in Ceuta on 14 March (AFP)
People wait to cross Spanish border with Morocco in Ceuta on 14 March (AFP)

Its French counterpart also tweeted that “passage (into Ceuta and Melilla) is open to French ferry ticket holders with vehicles.”

But except for a few travellers, the normally busy border post near the Moroccan town of Fnideq was deserted.

At the service station, camper vans bearing various European license plates were parked waiting.

“We don’t know how long this will last, no one has told us anything,” said Rene, a 71-year-old Frenchman, speaking before Macron’s announcement.

“The weather is good here, there’s surely fewer cases of coronavirus in Morocco than in France,” he said.

Moroccan authorities have reported 18 cases of Covid-19, including one death. France and Spain have together announced more than 210 Covid-19 deaths.

Morocco confirmed nine new coronavirus cases on Saturday, the health ministry said.

The new cases include the country’s first locally transmitted case, while the remaining cases contracted the virus in Spain, Italy and France, the ministry said in a statement.

Morocco has suspended all football matches, closed all schools, halted flights with nine countries and cancelled gatherings of more than 50 people.

On the Spanish side at Cueta, stuck Moroccans were wondering why their country would not let them back in.

“If I need to get a hotel, who will pay?” asked a man hoping to return home.

At Tangiers port, 30km (18 miles) to the west, containers and trucks were unloaded as usual but the passenger terminal was closed.

The busiest port in North Africa, the facility welcomed 568,000 foreign tourists in 2019, while 473,000 entered from Cueta and Melilla, according to official figures.

‘We are lost!’: Thousands of tourists stranded as Morocco cuts links to Europe amid coronavirus

Morocco suspends air, sea and land links with European countries and Algeria, causing panic in tourism sector

MEE and agencies
Sat, 03/14/2020 – 19:32

Passengers wait for flights at Tangier Ibn Battuta Airport in northern Morocco on 14 March (AFP)

Thousands of tourists were stranded in Morocco on Saturday after the kingdom suddenly announced strict border restrictions in response to the coronavirus, leaving travellers stuck at borders, ports and airports.

“We are lost!” said David, an Italian tourist waiting at the closed border with the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in northern Morocco, as quoted by AFP.

Morocco suspended air, sea and land links with European countries and Algeria on Friday, as well as taking measures to confine citizens to prevent the spread of coronavirus. On Saturday, it suspended flights to and from another 25 countries, the foreign ministry said, extending the earlier ban that covered China, Spain, Italy, France and Algeria, according to Reuters.

Other countries with which air travel is now suspended are Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chad, Denmark, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Jordan, Lebanon, Mali, Mauritania, Netherlands, Niger, Norway, Oman, Portugal, Senegal, Switzerland, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey and the UAE.

The travel restrictions are causing panic in the kingdom’s tourism sector, which accounts for 10 percent of GDP and is a key source of foreign revenue.

Morocco declares first case of coronavirus

Read More »

Sea links for passengers and Morocco’s land borders with Ceuta and a second Spanish enclave, Melilla, were closed.

Still, France announced that Rabat had agreed to allow repatriation flights for French nationals.

“Thousands of French were in Morocco when the decision was taken to stop flights to France. It’s a very difficult situation,” Helene Le Gal, France’s ambassador to Morocco, said in a video posted on Twitter.

French television stations and social media showed hundreds of people at Marrakesh airport with no flights available and nowhere to go.

Videos recorded on Saturday at Marrakesh airport showed dozens of stranded passengers, some chanting: “Macron, a plane!”

“New flights are being organised to enable return to France,” President Emmanuel Macron tweeted on Saturday in response.

Le Gal said the embassy had received about 6,000 calls in the last 24 hours and added that the government was trying to find alternative routes to get people out of Morocco and accommodation for those with nowhere to stay.

Alexandra Katz, a French tourist whose plane to Paris was cancelled on Saturday, said she and other nationals would spend the night at the airport until a solution was found. “I saw a mother prepare a place to sleep on the floor for her two kids. We are abandoned to our fate here,” she told Reuters.

The closure of the only land border between Africa and the European Union at Cueta and Melilla saw Spaniards rushing to leave on Thursday evening, as Moroccan day workers hastily returned in the opposite direction.

The land borders are busiest in summer and the border sees regular traffic throughout the year. Now, a Moroccan police roadblock bars the road towards the border with Cueta.

David, the Italian tourist, said he tried to go to Spain because links with Italy, a hotspot of the disease, were suspended.

After arriving in Morocco for a motorcycle tour with his partner earlier this month, the 33-year-old Italian was stuck at a service station outside Cueta. 

The border at Cueta, like that at Melilla, was reopened Friday only for Spaniards. 

The Spanish embassy in Morocco tweeted on Saturday that ferries were still operating between the enclaves and mainland Spain.

People wait to cross Spanish border with Morocco in Ceuta on 14 March (AFP)
People wait to cross Spanish border with Morocco in Ceuta on 14 March (AFP)

Its French counterpart also tweeted that “passage (into Ceuta and Melilla) is open to French ferry ticket holders with vehicles.”

But except for a few travellers, the normally busy border post near the Moroccan town of Fnideq was deserted.

At the service station, camper vans bearing various European license plates were parked waiting.

“We don’t know how long this will last, no one has told us anything,” said Rene, a 71-year-old Frenchman, speaking before Macron’s announcement.

“The weather is good here, there’s surely fewer cases of coronavirus in Morocco than in France,” he said.

Moroccan authorities have reported 18 cases of Covid-19, including one death. France and Spain have together announced more than 210 Covid-19 deaths.

Morocco confirmed nine new coronavirus cases on Saturday, the health ministry said.

The new cases include the country’s first locally transmitted case, while the remaining cases contracted the virus in Spain, Italy and France, the ministry said in a statement.

Morocco has suspended all football matches, closed all schools, halted flights with nine countries and cancelled gatherings of more than 50 people.

On the Spanish side at Cueta, stuck Moroccans were wondering why their country would not let them back in.

“If I need to get a hotel, who will pay?” asked a man hoping to return home.

At Tangiers port, 30km (18 miles) to the west, containers and trucks were unloaded as usual but the passenger terminal was closed.

The busiest port in North Africa, the facility welcomed 568,000 foreign tourists in 2019, while 473,000 entered from Cueta and Melilla, according to official figures.


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