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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

Morocco’s long-burdened ‘mule women’ face new struggle

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FNIDEQ: After years of back-breaking toil, Fatima el Hanani now fears being reduced to struggles in the street because of Morocco’s closure of its border with a Spanish enclave to thousands of “mule women.’’


The impact has been felt on both sides of the frontier, with the Moroccan porters who lugged duty-free Spanish goods left out of work and shops closing as livelihoods dry up for traders.


“They want to turn us into beggars,” says Hanani, who had spent all her working life transporting heavy loads from Ceuta to the town of Fnideq in the North African kingdom.


Like thousands of other Moroccan women — and also men — she would cross every day into the Spanish enclave and come back laden with merchandise for traders.


Goods brought on foot through the crossing on a hill looking over the Mediterranean are not subjected to import duties, unlike those brought by vehicles. But four months ago, Morocco suddenly stopped porters from crossing, in a move aimed at curbing the entry of contraband.


“Business was good before,” says Hanani, who is in her 50s, but now “there is no more work.’’


Nicknamed “mule women”, the Moroccan porters would often be seen bent double, overburdened by goods approaching or exceeding their own bodyweight.


Rights groups repeatedly denounced the work as “humiliating”, saying it was tantamount to trafficking tolerated by the authorities. — AFP


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