The fence blighting the Maghreb

Can youth of Morocco and Algeria overcome physical barriers, asks Claire Spencer

The World Today Updated 6 November 2020 Published 26 July 2019 2 minute READ

Dr Claire Spencer

Visiting Senior Research Fellow, King’s College London

When the nearly 1,600km border between Morocco and Algeria was closed 25 years ago this August, the Moroccan authorities assumed that the measure would only be temporary.

The Algerian government closed it unilaterally after the kind of diplomatic spat that has characterized Algerian- Moroccan relations since the 1960s. Most are wars of words dwindling to a partial climbdown after a publicly aired blame game carried out by each side.

In the case of the sealed border, however, the bad feeling has not only endured, but has been reinforced since 2013-14 by the building of a 150km fence on the Moroccan side. This was in response to the digging a trench on the other side by the Algerians. The rationale behind that had been to stop the smuggling of cheap petrol from Algeria, of cannabis from Morocco and of people, whether illegal migrants seeking entry into Europe via the Spanish enclave of Melilla or terrorists.

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