A GROUP of Brits who landed at Barcelona airport were forced back on their plane and flown back to Heathrow when Spanish police refused to accept their old-style NIE certificates as proof of residence.

Speaking on the Brexpats in Spain Facebook page, one traveller reported the chaos when his flight touched down in Barcelona on Saturday. He said: “I was on flight BA474 from London Heathrow, which landed at Barcelona El Prat at 1.20 pm.

“As we landed and left the plane, we were met by a gauntlet of armed police. All Spanish and Andorran nationals were let through and all other passengers herded like cattle to the side, documents were taken in a pile by the different officers.

Italy British Airways Check In Passengers Board Last Flight To London That Arrives Empty To Repatriate British Residents
File photo Cordon Press

“Everyone had their NIE (green flimsy residency card), Negative PCR test result and HR code (Spanish Travel Health) which all had been already checked prior to boarding at Heathrow.

“The police then start checking all the NIE’s (green flimsy residency card) and calling verifying their status…it quickly escalated to the police telling everyone they must board the plane and fly back to London.

“I asked what was required as we were complying with all the requisites on the UK GOV and Spanish GOV websites. As usual, the police were very aggressive and seemed unable to provide us an explanation apart from ‘It’s COVID related’ and then ‘You’re not a resident’.

“I personally have dual citizenship UK and Portugal, the documents I gave the police were my Portuguese ID (similar to DNI) and my NIE (green flimsy residency card) ! I kept telling them that i am a European Union National and that they have to let me through, after being denied by three police officers and 40 minutes later as all the BRITS were forced back on the flight (me included)…finally the penny dropped and the senior police officer let me through at the last minute.

“I was extremely lucky and felt so sorry for all the other passengers that were in essence DEPORTED back to the UK (one elder gentleman had been in Spain for 15 years).

“So, apart from a negative PCR test you also need (if you are British) a TIE!!!….i know, the websites say you can travel with the NIE (green flimsy residency card) but not according to the police at Barcelona and the only other three Brits that were let through, had the TIE or had the TRAMITE (proof of application). I strongly advise anyone travelling from the UK to Spain to make sure they have a TIE or at least proof of application.”

Nota_aclaratoria_green_certificate
The official Spanish government advice on acceptable documents has apparently not been read by immigration officials at some airports

In another incident nine people were refused boarding onto a British Airways/Iberia flight at Heathrow when airline staff told them their NIE/residencia certificates were ‘no longer valid’.

This is despite official advice from the British embassy in Madrid  – confirmed by the Spanish authorities – that old-style green certificates as well as the new TIE cards remain valid.

Amongst the people not allowed to board was journalist and broadcaster  Max Duncan, who was told his green residency paper was no longer valid.

He immediately tweeted the British Embassy in Madrid, who replied.”This should not be happening, the Spanish authorities have reconfirmed again this evening that the green residency document will be valid for travel to return to Spain as stated in our travel advice,” officials said via the embassy’s @UKinSpain account.

Another passenger reported on the Brexpats in Spain Facebook page how they were denied boarding. “BA says only Spanish passport holders are permitted. I have been refused to travel with my green residency card.

“In reply to my comment that residency holders and Spanish nationals are allowed to enter Spain he is being told by the senior person on site that they had just heard within the last hour that no foreigners even with residencia are being allowed in so he has been refusing boarding.”

This is thought to have happened after the incident where travellers were made to return to the UK from Barcelona.

The poster continued: “They told him that he would need a letter from Spanish government. They refuse to look at British Embassy website saying it doesn’t count! I suggested he asked which source they had used for the information for me to be able to check it and he is told the info came over her walkie talkie which seems gospel! So, Vikki Foster, senior person onsite for BA, is unable to give a source but says she had it on the internal BA radio to refuse entry to all except Spanish passport holders.”

Anne Hernandez, founder of Brexpats in Spain, told the Olive Press: “This has got to be sorted out quickly. These are people not being allowed to return to their homes – they live in Spain and have residency. What are they supposed to do? Where are they supposed to go?”

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