France and Spain are chartering special planes and ferries to repatriate their thousands of nationals stranded in Morocco, due to the suspension of air links last week to limit the spread of the coronavirus, their embassies announced on Twitter.
Rabat suspended on April 30 until further notice all passenger flights to and from Spain and France, a decision in addition to the suspensions concerning thirty other countries decided in recent weeks to fight against the coronavirus.
The announcement sparked a rush to airports for the last authorized flights, according to local media.
Some 3,000 Spanish “tourists” and nearly 4,000 French have since been identified across the kingdom where travel has been theoretically limited for several months due to the pandemic, according to diplomatic sources.
Spain has obtained authorizations for a “special” flight which took off Sunday to Madrid with around 350 passengers. On Saturday, some 800 passengers were able to board from Tangier to Algeciras, according to the Twitter account of the Spanish embassy in Morocco. Two more ferries are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.
France has also been able to obtain authorizations for special connections in the Morocco-France direction, with several flights in recent days and in the coming days. A ferry to Marseille is scheduled for April 10, according to the French Embassy’s Twitter account.
Before the pandemic, Morocco was one of the most popular tourist destinations in Africa, with 13 million visitors registered in 2019, according to the World Tourism Organization.
Thousands of tourists, including 60,000 French, were stranded last spring when the borders were closed but were finally able to return home over the weeks thanks to special flights.
Morocco declared a state of health emergency last March and since then its borders have remained closed, although travel remains possible with special permits.