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Spain tightens pandemic controls on cross-border movement

Eyleen Gomez

Spain said on Friday that Gibraltar residents will only be allowed across the border during the current public health pandemic if they demonstrate essential reasons for travel, and on the proviso Campo residents receive reciprocal treatment from Gibraltar’s immigration authorities.

Gibraltar has so far largely escaped the tight pandemic controls applied at all of Spain’s other borders, particularly in respect of travellers from the UK amid concern about the virulent Kent strain.

Residents of the Rock were allowed to cross into Spain, as were people who were legally resident there, subject to Spain’s domestic Covid restrictions including bans on travel between municipalities.

But those temporary border controls, first announced on December 22, have now been tightened.

A new regulation published by Madrid on Friday states that anyone crossing as from midnight on February 1 must show documentation to demonstrate they have essential reasons for entering Spain from Gibraltar, for example work or medical appointments.

Additionally, the regulation states residents of Gibraltar of any nationality will be allowed to cross the border “…so long as there exists reciprocity in respect of the entry into Gibraltar of residents in the Campo de Gibraltar.”

In an explanatory note to the regulation, the Spanish Government said it had detected “an absence of reciprocity” in terms of who was allowed to cross into Gibraltar, although it added no further detail.

“It’s necessary that residents on either side of the fence receive equitable treatment,” the order noted.

Speaking at a press conference in No.6 Convent Place on Friday, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said Gibraltar residents should avoid all but essential cross-border travel and should stay indoors unless absolutely necessary, even after lockdown restrictions are eased on Monday.

He acknowledged that Spain had tightened restrictions on movement and routine business in the Campo against the backdrop of a spike in cases, and that the temporary measures at the border were part of that response.

“This is not an issue of politics, this is an issue of public health,” Mr Picardo said.

“I would urge our own people therefore not to seek to exit Gibraltar other than for the purposes that are permitted once you are in Spain and that you should familiarise yourself with the rules to ensure you do not fall foul of Spanish law once in Spain.”

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