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As people refused entry into Spain, border checks draw political flak

Photo by Eyleen Gomez

Around 35 non-EU nationals were refused entry into Spain from Gibraltar on Tuesday, the Gibraltar Government said, with more people facing similar travel problems on Wednesday too.

Most were British nationals and holders of blue Gibraltar ID cards, although the Borders and Coastguard Agency also confirmed that a Gibraltarian British national was also refused entry to Spain for failing to produce a Gibraltar red ID.

Additionally, a Ukrainian national who is a resident in Gibraltar was also refused entry into Spain.

Spain first stepped up its checks on non-EU nationals – including blue ID card holders resident in Gibraltar - in October 2021 when the UK ceased to recognise EU ID cards as valid travel documents.

Spain has said it is applying the Schengen Borders Code on non-EU nationals as required at an external EU frontier, including stamping passports.

Under EU rules, non-EU nationals – including British nationals, after Brexit - must be able to provide documentary proof of their reason for travel, where they are staying and when they are returning, as well as evidence of subsistence funds.

Red ID card holders resident in Gibraltar are still allowed through without those checks or passport stamps under interim arrangements applied by Spain pending the outcome of treaty talks

“Most were asked for the reason of their visit to Spain and for flights or hotel bookings,” No.6 Convent Place said of the people refused entry this week.

“The BCA are not aware of any British national who presented their passport and a Gibraltar red ID card, to have been asked to provide reasons for travel.”

“The Government understands that the existing status quo has not changed and that Gibraltar red ID card holders will not be required to stamp their passports when crossing the border to travel within Spain.”

Reacting to the developments, the GSD recalled that in the run-up to the recent general election, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said in an interview with the Chronicle that he expected Spain “to maintain its commitment on fluidity as we have seen until now”.

But while No.6 insisted on Wednesday that its understanding was the status quo remained in place, GSD Leader Keith Azopardi questioned that assessment.

“There has of course been a change to the status quo for blue ID card holders,” he said.

“Despite assurances given to blue ID card holders that they would not face different restrictions or have their passports stamped when crossing the frontier while negotiations for an EU treaty were ongoing, that status quo was broken in 2021.”

“Since then, they have faced new restrictions and frustrations. This latest development is a worsening of restrictions faced by blue ID card holders.”

“The Government statement is wholly insufficient as it does not address the core issue of the turning back at the frontier of all these blue ID card holders.”

“We have raised this issue repeatedly.”

“What is the Government doing about these things which spark huge frustration at the unreasonable measures taken by Spain at the border?”

“Empty words provide no real comfort to people on the ground.”

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