Govt warns of reciprocity at border as Spain intensifies immigration controls
A new passport control regime initiated by Spain at the border “without prior warning” on Friday could prompt a reciprocal response by Gibraltar, No.6 Convent Place said.
Pedestrians faced lengthy queues in baking heat as Spanish police intensified checks on people crossing into Gibraltar.
At one point the queue snaked out of the border precinct and on to the road.
Spanish immigration officers were scanning a significant number of passports, including those held by Gibraltar-resident red card holders and even of some Spanish nationals.
Some reports suggested that some ID cards were also being scanned.
“This, together with higher numbers of people crossing the border at the height of the summer tourist season, has caused lengthy queues and considerable inconvenience to thousands of people coming into Gibraltar, the vast majority of whom are actually Spanish,” No.6 Convent Place said.
Both the Gibraltar and UK governments sought clarification from Spain as to the reason for intensifying checks without prior notice.
While Brexit means Spain is obliged to conduct closer checks on non-EU nationals – including British citizens – there had been a flexible approach at the border pending the outcome of talks for a treaty on the Rock’s post-Brexit relations with the EU.
Those talks are currently on hold until a new government is in place in Madrid, but the change yesterday was unexpected by officials here.
The message from No.6 Convent Place, however, was clear.
“In the event that no explanation is forthcoming, or that the explanation is unreasonable in all the circumstances, His Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar will act reciprocally, incrementally as from next week,” No.6 Convent Place said.
“This means that cross frontier workers who are not covered by the Withdrawal Agreement should ensure they have valid travel documents available for inspection on entry into Gibraltar.”
“Those who are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement will have to demonstrate this through the daily provision of valid travel and identity documents also.”
“The Government deeply regrets this situation which follows the action taken by Spain for which no explanation has yet been received.”
“The Government will not hesitate to implement new passport and ID card scanning, and other measures if necessary, for non UK nationals, as well as implementing new queuing protocols, if no changes are forthcoming.”
Spain’s Ministry of Interior, which is responsible for police and immigration, did not respond to questions from this newspaper.
However unnamed Spanish sources told Europa Sur that there had been no change and that passports were not being stamped.
They acknowledged though that a greater number of passports and documents were being scanned to check against databases for any outstanding alerts.