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UK move on EU ID cards triggered passport stamps for Gib ‘blue card’ holders, Govt says

Photo by Johnny Bugeja.

UK nationals holding blue Gibraltarian civilian registration cards are having their passports stamped when crossing the border after a “change in posture” by Spanish authorities following the introduction of new UK immigration controls for EU citizens, the Gibraltar Government said on Wednesday.

The Government and the GSD said they had received complaints after holders of the blue civilian registration cards had their passports stamped by the Spanish authorities at the border in recent days.

Blue cards are held by UK nationals and EU citizens who were resident in Gibraltar as of December 31, 2020. Until recently, they allowed holders to cross without having their passport stamped.

But the UK’s decision to require EU nationals to carry passports when entering the UK appears to have triggered the change in posture by the Spanish authorities.

“This change [in the UK] was followed by the systematic stamping of blue card holding UK nationals seeking to enter the EU through Gibraltar,” the Gibraltar Government said.

“The position is that once Gibraltar left the European Union, ordinarily all third country passports would be liable to be stamped on entry and exit from Schengen.”

“While a new treaty is negotiated, bridging measures unilaterally extended by Spain meant that passports of those holding a red Gibraltar identity card or a blue Gibraltar civilian registration card were not being stamped.”

“However, on 1 October the United Kingdom introduced new rules under which EU nationals can no longer enter the UK with their identity card alone and required a passport instead.”

“This change was followed by the systematic stamping of blue card holding UK nationals seeking to enter the EU through Gibraltar.”

UK nationals living in Gibraltar with a blue card will have to ensure their passports are stamped on the way into Spain and on their return to Gibraltar otherwise the days accumulated will count towards their entitlement to 90 days in 180 visa-free.

“It does unfortunately mean that any entry and exit to Spain will count towards at least one day of those 90,” the Government said.

“The Government has raised the matter with UK and Spain and understands that different options are being looked at.”

“We will continue to work to provide solutions where possible.”

EU nationals resident in Gibraltar with a blue card are being advised to ensure they take their EU passports when crossing the border to avoid all stamping. EU citizens retain the right to move across Schengen borders with minimum checks.

Meanwhile those with magenta civilian registration cards – issued to UK nationals who became resident in Gibraltar after the transition period ended on December 31, 2020 - will also have their passports stamped by Spanish authorities on their way in and out of the Schengen Zone.

'DISCRIMINATION’

The GSD yesterday called on the Government to take steps to avoid British nationals resident in Gibraltar from being “discriminated against” when having their passports stamped because of the colour of the civilian registration card.

The Opposition said that when it last raised this in June this year the Government gave assurances that this practice would be dropped by Spain after representations it made.

“However it is clear from several reports to the Opposition that this is happening again and seems widespread practice,” the GSD said.

“The GSD once again calls on Government to ensure that all residents of Gibraltar can enjoy normal mobility as promised pending the negotiations on a future treaty.”

“ID or Civilian registration card holders of whatever colour reside in Gibraltar.”

“Surely if it is about the issue of monitoring travel to Spain by UK residents the Spanish authorities should stamp the passports of persons without a Gibraltar ID or civilian registration card of any colour.”

For his part, Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi said: “People had been led to believe that the frontier bridging measures would be in place until the Treaty negotiations with the EU were over and pending an agreement on a future relationship.”

“But some British residents of Gibraltar are being discriminated against when clearly, they reside here.”

“There is no good reason for this and they had been assured by the Government that this would not happen again pending the negotiations.”

“What is the Government doing about this and to protect the rights of British residents of Gibraltar?”

“We have been calling on them to ensure their protection for months.”

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