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Spain releases UK diplomatic bags after border hold-up

Eyleen Gomez

British diplomatic bags that had been held up by Spain at the border for over a fortnight were released this week and delivered to the Office of the Governor.

The bags contained official correspondence between London and the Office of the Governor and had been sent overland “in error” as opposed to by air.

The bags appear to have been stopped because Spain does not recognise the Office of the Governor as a diplomatic mission, meaning the shipment was not afforded standard diplomatic protections.

According to the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, packages carrying official documents and other material deemed necessary for use by a diplomatic mission - provided that they are clearly marked as such - cannot be opened or detained.

“I can confirm that the official correspondence was safely received by the Office of the Governor yesterday,” a spokesman for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office told the Chronicle.

Noticias Gibraltar, the website that broke the story, said the bags weighed 150 kilos and were released after the UK acknowledged they were not diplomatic mail. The FCDO did not comment on this.

According to the Spanish website, however, the bags were not opened and Spain was not given any information as to what was inside.

This is not the first time that the UK has experienced problems at the border with its diplomatic mail, though it has been some years since the last incident.

In 2013, Britain protested formally to Spain after Spanish Guardia Civil border guards opened a diplomatic bag that was being shipped overland from Gibraltar to the UK.

At the time, the Foreign Office said such shipments were “inviolable” and that opening one was “a serious infringement” of the Vienna Convention.

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