Operation Marhaba- Crossing the Strait closes June with record figures

According to Civil Protection figures, 101,752 people and 28,327 vehicles have arrived in Morocco since the start of the OPE on 13 June.
<p>Miles de ciudadanos marroquíes que trabajan y viven en Europa atraviesan el Estrecho de Gibraltar cuando regresan a Marruecos para pasar las vacaciones de verano - AFP/FADEL SENNA</p>
Thousands of Moroccan nationals working and living in Europe cross the Strait of Gibraltar on their way back to Morocco for the summer holidays - AFP/FADEL SENNA

After a 2023 with excellent figures, 2024 has started smashing the records with more than 90% more passengers and 135% more vehicles as far as the Marhaba-Strait Crossing Operation is concerned. As every year, the Algeciras-Tangier Med route is, with 42.7%, the most chosen by Moroccans living abroad who wish to return to their country during their summer holidays, followed by Algeciras-Ceuta with 27.7% and Tarifa-Tanger Ville 6.7%. 

At the time of publication of the article, the number of vehicles that have crossed the Strait is 101,752 people and 28,327 vehicles, which is 35.4% more people and 42.3% more vehicles than in 2023. 

<p>Pasajeros esperan la llegada de un ferry de la compañía FRS en un puerto de Ceuta - REUTERS/JON NAZCA</p>
Passengers wait for the arrival of an FRS ferry at a port in Ceuta - REUTERS/JON NAZCA

The movement of people during the OPE has reached such a magnitude that the Port Authority of the Bay of Algeciras received more applications in the months of June, July, August and September than in the rest of the year. In figures, more than 669,000 people crossed the Strait alone from January to May this year, while more than 4 million people - the equivalent of 40 times its population - are expected to cross (in both directions) the Strait alone through the port of Algeciras.

Nearly 63% have crossed the Strait through the port of Algeciras since the start of the OPE on 13 June.

The increase in traffic means greater security. In view of this operation, both the Guardia Civil, the Directorate General of Traffic and the Ministry of the Interior have redoubled their efforts to guarantee the safety of all.

<p>Pasajeros esperan la llegada de un ferry de la compañía FRS en un puerto de Ceuta - REUTERS/JON NAZCA</p>
Families wait with their vehicles to board a ferry to Morocco in the port of Algeciras - REUTERS/JON NAZCA

If we put this effort into numbers, we see that this year 652 shifts have been carried out compared to 475 in 2023 rotations in the security and civil care shifts. Bearing in mind that this year more than 27,000 more people are taking part to guarantee security. ​In terms of security measures, in 2024, of the more than 100,000 travellers, only 296 had to be attended to, of whom 54 received medical assistance and 242 received social assistance.

The forecast is that the difference will increase even more and we will have better figures than in 2023. Despite the fact that each year is a bigger challenge than the previous one, the current Spanish Minister of the Interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, has pointed out on several occasions that the experience accumulated by Ceuta, Melilla and Algeciras during the more than 35 years of experience has provided, year after year, the OPE with more than satisfactory results, being one of the safest and most watched migratory operations and with a greater success among its passengers all over the world.

<p>Familias esperan junto a sus vehículos para subir a un ferry con destino a Marruecos - REUTERS/JON NAZCA</p>
Families wait with their vehicles to board a ferry bound for Morocco - REUTERS/JON NAZCA

As announced this Thursday at the press conference held by the Minister of Public Safety, José Ronda, more than 900 cars from the mainland, in addition to those from Melilla, crossed the border to Morocco for their holidays. 

During the 2023 OPE, the equivalent of 12 times the population of each city respectively crossed through Ceuta and Melilla, which shows the large volume of people travelling to Morocco during the summer months.

Despite the large influx of people, José Ronda pointed out that the areas with the most baggage are still being attended to, although travellers still face long waits at the border. The delay exceeded 5 hours. He also explained that security measures began on 10 June, a few days before the start of the OPE, in anticipation of the heavy traffic expected. 

In this regard, he explained that the force permanently stationed at the border includes at least four special agents, local police and transport agents who cooperate in information missions and organise queues both by car and on foot to avoid traffic jams at the border. José Ronda stressed that at peak hours the manning is even tripled. 

He stated that there have been no incidents since the start of Operation Crossing the Strait, except for a few non-serious incidents, such as minor health problems in some travellers who were waiting to reach Morocco, but were quickly attended to by the emergency services or transferred to a medical centre without serious problems. 

In turn, the Government's deputy delegate, José María Martín Fernández, gave a positive assessment of the first weekend and, despite the traffic jams, concluded that the measures, as part of the Fleet Plan, will speed up the processes for the rest of the operation.

<p>Un hombre revisa su equipaje mientras espera para embarcar en ferries con destino a Tánger - AFP/JORGE GUERRERO</p>
A man checks his luggage as he waits to board ferries to Tangier - AFP/JORGE GUERRERO

He stressed that, thanks to the teams deployed in collaboration with the State Police, the Civil Guard, Civil Protection, the Maritime Captaincy, the Port Authority and the Health Services, as well as other relevant authorities, operations are developing normally and will continue in the same spirit. The government agency reported that approximately 700 military personnel will be involved in the Fleet Plan, which is administered by the government agency in Almeria. 

The objective is to ensure inter-administrative coordination to provide maximum comfort to people passing through the port, guaranteeing the fluidity of maritime traffic and its safety.