Scores of stranded Moroccan citizens repatriated from Spanish-run enclave of Melilla
The repatriation of 200 Moroccan citizens stranded in the contested Spanish-administered enclave of Melilla in Morocco started on Friday.
The Moroccan government closed its borders in mid-March to tackle the coronavirus.
Melilla and Ceuta are two cities on the Mediterranean coast of North Africa, surrounded by Morocco on three sides, which Spain considers as integral parts of its territory.
However, Morocco also claims sovereignty over the two enclaves and views continued Spanish rule over them as a modern-day form of colonialism. Their boundaries represent the EU’s only land borders with Africa.
"The Moroccan government has given us a list of 200 Moroccan citizens stuck in Melilla and we are proceeding with their repatriation," a local Spanish government spokesman in Melilla said.
Moroccan media said the repatriated individuals would be placed in quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
Moroccan authorities did not immediately provide details on the reported start of the repatriation process.
In late April, Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit told parliament that measures would be taken to repatriate Moroccans stuck in the two enclaves "in the shortest possible time".
Around 28,000 Moroccans have been stranded outside the country since the kingdom suspended international commercial flights in mid-March in a bid to forestall the spread of the novel coronavirus.
A large number of those stranded are stuck in France, Turkey and Spain.
Many have taken to social media to voice their distress.
Moroccan consular services say they have covered accommodation expenses for some of those stranded.