Border delays ahead of new Schengen measures
Gibraltar yesterday saw the return of long queues and stringent document checks at the border. Early in the morning, afternoon and evening, there were queues of up to two hours delay reaching a peak at around 5pm for both pedestrians and cars with vehicles heading into Spain diverted into Devil’s Tower Road. Taking to Twitter the Royal Gibraltar Police explained that the majority of available officers were managing traffic at the border.
The delays are not unusual at this time of year and as the Easter break approaches but the delays have coincided with the Schengan Border Code which comes into effect tomorrow, April 7.
Spanish sources yesterday confirmed to the Chronicle that the checks were as a result of the Schengen measures which will be introduced in just a day.
Extra Policia Nacional are now said to be in post at the border, said Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia, at a press conference yesterday at No.6.
The Chief Minister Fabian Picardo commented the border queues reflected at a human level the vagaries of the relationship between Gibraltar, Spain and the UK.
The Government he said was monitoring very closely what happened yesterday morning and afternoon “and why” and whether the checks currently enforced were “disproportionate or not”.
This information will be transmitted to the UK and EU “whilst Gibraltar is still a member of the EU and EU law still applies”.
Even within Schengen there were codes which allowed for targeted checks and which needed to be applied, said Dr Garcia: “to allow for targeted checks instead of systematic checks, for faster passage of people who cross the border regularly, and an evaluation procedure.”
Too often, said Mr Picardo, Spain said things to an international audience but the actual reality on the ground affecting the people of Gibraltar and of La Linea and the Campo generally was very different.
The Government continued to run a very detailed programme on the activity at the border on a daily basis of waiting times into Gibraltar and out of Gibraltar.
The Schengen border code he reiterated several times did not apply until tomorrow, April 7.
Meanwhile commuters entering Gibraltar early yesterday morning suffered more than an hour’s delay at the frontier. There were long queues of pedestrians and cars on the Spanish side of the frontier stretching back to the Hotel Rocamar which caused chaos on La Linea’s roads. As a result thousands of commuters were affected.
Spanish sources have suggested there was also a specialist unit of six officers from Madrid now at the border.
Five of them controlling cars and the others for pedestrian crossing.
The officers are understood not to have received any orders to strengthen the controls at the border but part of the delay yesterday was as a result of people with electronic passports or ID’s being sent through the automatic system, whilst others crossed through the manual control.
Spanish police unions: SindicatoUnificado de Policía (SUP) and Confederacion Española de Policías (CEP) at the border, yesterday claimed there were five officers at each pedestrian control, at least at peak times, in order to prevent the queues from forming.
The Unions said two of the officers would monitor the automatic machines whilst the rest checked the rest.
At the vehicle frontier, the unions said that there would
be two more officers, one of them each way to enter in Gibraltar.
(Additional reporting Maria Jesus Corales, pic: Johnny Bugeja)