Algeciras: An artistic work pays tribute to the Marhaba operation

Soukaina Sghir
Soukaina Sghir
6 Min Read

Since last Thursday “in Algeciras, on the Paseo del Río de la Miel,” massive and “strange” footprints mark the return journey that connects the bus station and the central access to the Port, filling the ground of this now legendary passage and entering the history of migration in all its forms.

They indicate a route that millions of people took on their journeys from Europe to Morocco and vice versa.  The nerve centre is to do this, at the ferry terminal of Algeciras. The 47 footprints, in vinyl, are there in tribute to all the institutions, companies and people who work to make possible Operation Crossing of the Strait (OPE) or Operation “Marhaba” as soon as it is seen from the south shore of the Mediterranean. These footprints form the exhibition “Márgenes y Vínculos “Foundation Round Trip Emotions” in tribute to the millions of passengers, RME, tourists and others who crossed the Strait in both directions.

Thirty-seven artists joined this initiative with their creations, to which are added ten other collaborating institutions. No less than 47 works of art highlight this lively avenue of Algeciras that should serve as a reason for pedestrians to reflect on migration and crossing the strait. Back-and-forth emotions were organised as part of the project A Positive Neighborhood, developed by “Márgenes y Vínculos”. On the other hand, the Port Authority of the Bay of Algeciras and the Department of Culture of the City Hall have contributed financially to this initiative.

The opening ceremony was attended by musicians, painters, actors, writers and other artists, As part of their collaboration at the event, the central promenade located between the Juan de la Cierva and Villanueva avenues was made to signify that an ideal setting for thinking about migration was in order. They participated in this inauguration, the president of Márgenes y Vínculos, Francisco Mena, accompanied by representatives of institutions working together for the good development of the crossing of the strait, in addition, the Consul of Morocco in Algeciras, Mohamed Rafaoui, the representatives of the Autonomous Port and the Town Hall, the colonel in chief of the Command of the Civil Guard, the local commissioner, the president of the Cross-Rouge in Algeciras, as well as the president of the Traditional Trade Association of the historic district of Algericas.

Francisco Mena said that Round Trip Emotions wants to recognize the enormous work accomplished for many years by the Port Authority and all the entities and companies involved in crossing the strait, which, he recalled, consists of the transit of three million people every year from Europe to the African continent, making it the largest migratory process of people in the world in such a short time. He also highlighted the teamwork involved in the crossing of the strait, thanking in passing, the collaboration that “Márgenes y Vínculo “with his group of 37 creators of different artistic expressions, as well as the association RecreArte, who collaborated in this grand cultural initiative. This is the intercultural coexistence in the neighbourhoods as an element that enriches the social life of the cities, especially in Algericas and Tangier.

Spain and Morocco, it should be recalled, activated this year Operation Across the Strait (OPE) or Operation Marhaba. On this occasion, the Spanish ports, which were excluded for the first time in 2020 and for the second time in 2121 because of the Dame Covid-19 crisis, expressed their gratitude for the opening on June 15, which allowed the transit operation of vehicles and passengers. According to the Mohamed V Foundation for Solidarity, the organization responsible for the coordination, 17 rest areas have been set up, notably in the Mediterranean ports of Tangier-Med, Tangier-Ville, Al Hoceima and Nador. Other reception areas have also been established in the ports of Almeria, Algeciras and Motril, as well as in France and Genoa in Italy.

In Spain, it has been reported that since 1986, l’OPE has been responsible for the return and return journeys of Moroccans who travel during the summer from Europe to North Africa and back. For this 2022 edition, Rabat has prepared up to 32 ferries, with 571 weekly trips covering the route between its ports and those of Spain, France and Italy, all with a capacity of 478,000 passengers and 123,000 cars. In this respect, some 23 ferries will operate on the lines connecting Morocco and Spain, 14 of which have covered the main route Tangier-Med-Algeciras, a figure which represents about 95 % of passenger traffic.

Operation OPE or Marhaba “Crossing the Strait” is one of the main tourists flows between the continents. The number of passengers in 2019, the latest edition that has so far included Spanish ports, amounted to 3,340,045 passengers, in addition to more than 760,000 vehicles. The figures were reduced in 2020 and 2021 due to the exclusion of Spain.

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