Two women porters died in a stampede Monday at a border post between Morocco and Spain’s North African territory of Ceuta, a rights group and the MAP news agency said. The women, aged 34 and 45, were trampled at the Tarajal 2 border post and rushed to hospital where they died of their injuries, Mohammed Benaissa of the Northern Observatory of Human Rights.
Four other women porters were injured in the crush and taken to hospital in the nearby town of Fnid’q, Benaissa said. Morocco’s MAP confirmed the death toll and said that one of the injured was in a critical condition. Thousands of people, mainly women, work as porters transporting goods across the border, sometimes making return trips and carrying up to 70 kilos (155 pounds) on their backs.
Human rights groups have repeatedly denounced their working conditions, describing the women’s situation as “degrading and humiliating”. Monday’s deaths brought to four the number of women porters who have died in similar conditions since the frontier post was opened earlier this year, according to Benaissa.
Authorities reopened the crossing in late February and announced tighter controls on the size and weight of goods that porters can carry each day. They also set a quota of 4,000 porters permitted to make the run between the two countries.
Unemployment is high in Morocco, where according to the World Bank almost 5.3 million people “live under the threat of falling back into poverty due to their socio-economic conditions”.