Every year Campo de Gibraltar witnesses a high flow of travelers of Maghreb origin who return to see their families through Algeciras and Tarifa. This massive displacement is known as Operation Crossing the Strait (OPE) and, although it is normally carried out every year, the pandemic canceled this operation managed by the central government in the last two years.
The privileged position of the Campo-Gibraltar towns and the high volume that the ports are capable of receiving, especially that of Algeciras, make these enclaves essential to facilitate the passage of thousands of people each year to Morocco.
The OPE has been organized since 1986 in order to enable the round trip of all people living in Europe who go to Morocco during the summer season. The last known figure of an Operation Crossing the Strait is 3,343,795 passengers. This figure was the historical record. Regarding vehicles that crossed the Mediterranean, Interior estimates them at 760,215.
In 2020 and 2021, Morocco limited this summer return operation to French ports, which is why the OPE was suspended in these years. Furthermore, the land border with Spain through Ceuta and Melilla reopened only a few days ago, on May 17, having remained closed for health reasons, firstly, and diplomatically, lastly.
When does this Operation Strait Crossing begin and end?
This special operation begins on Wednesday, June 15 and will be active until September 15. Although the busiest months are expected to be July and August, when in Europe more vacation days are usually granted to the majority of the population.
According to Interior data, the flow of travelers has been increasing progressively from 2013 to 2019. For 2022, there are no forecasts yet.
Among the Spanish ports that participate in the OPE, those of Campo de Gibraltar, Algeciras and Tarifa stand out especially due to their proximity to the Moroccan border. The other national ports involved are Almería, Motril, Málaga, Alicante and Valencia.
Algeciras and Tarifa, the busiest ports.
Interior data confirm that, in terms of importance, Algeciras and Tarifa are the most crucial ports for the OPE to proceed as it should.
Most of the traffic in 2019 passed through the ports of Algeciras and Tarifa, a total of 2,340,736 passengers (71.6% of the total) and 534,734 vehicles. In that departure phase, the most used port was Algeciras by far, 230,498 vehicles in total. Some numbers well above Almería, where 67,046 cars left. In this case, Tarifa was in third place, with 38,632 vehicles.
Regarding the most used passenger lines, the port of Algeciras has the two busiest lines of this operation. 35.1% of passengers use the Algeciras-Tangier-Med and 19.4% use the Algeciras-Ceuta. In third place, the most used is the Tarifa-Tangier-Ville line, with 17%.
For the return to Europe, the ports are the following: Al Hoceima, Algiers, Ceuta, Ghazaouet, Melilla, Mostaganem, Nador, Oran, Tangier-Med, Tangier-Ville.