GIBRALTAR’S government has raised concerns over reports that Spanish police were refusing entry to British tourists at the border unless they could provide ‘valid reason’ for crossing.
According to reports received on Monday, Policia Nacional officers at the border were demanding those non-EU nationals, including British passport holders, to provide evidence of onward travel and hotel reservations in Spain before allowing them to cross.
One British holidaymaker who crossed into Spain on Tuesday said all British holidaymakers were also being asked to show proof of funds for the duration of their stay in Spain.
“At the border we had to prove we had €100 per day per person for the duration of our stay,” Julie Quartermaine told the Olive Press on Tuesday. “The woman officer was apologetic but said she had to see enough for the ten days we planned to be in Spain either in cash or in a bank account.
“I had to pull up my online banking on my phone and show I had at least two grand to cover me and my husband,” she said.
The couple flew into Gibraltar on the early flight from London Heathrow to spend ten days at their holiday home up the coast in Manilva on the Costa del Sol.
“It was quite a shock and God knows what would have happened if we couldn’t show we had the funds,” added Julie, from Cheam in Surrey. “There was a man ahead of us in the queue emptying out his wallet to show he had the cash.”
It appeared that the border guards on Monday suddenly started to apply the more stringent Schengen entry requirements that came into place with Brexit for Brits travelling to Europe through an external border.
However, such rules are suspended at Gibraltar’s border with Spain while negotiations for a post-Brexit agreement regarding the future of the Rock are ongoing.
On Monday afternoon Chief Minister Fabian Picardo posted his concerns about the issue on Twitter: “We are receiving reports of a change in approach to Non-Gibraltarian, Third Country Nationals, crossing the frontier into Spain. We will be taking up these issues with the UK and Spanish authorities.”
A government spokesman told the Olive Press: “Since Monday we have been hearing about incidents at the border of people with British passports being exposed to stringent Schengen checks.”
He confirmed that these checks were being applied to people with British passports although those with Gibraltar residence cards or Spanish residency were allowed through without further checks. It also seemed only to affect those crossing by foot rather than in a vehicle.
“We are rigorously pursuing clarification of this unannounced change in posture by Spanish authorities,” he continued.
“While negotiations are ongoing, we had agreed that things would continue as they were before,” he added.
Those at the regional Policia Nacional headquarters could shed no light on the matter and denied that there had been a shift in policy.
“We haven’t changed any measure since the December 31 preliminary agreement,” a spokesperson told the Olive Press. “The only thing we do is ask for a reason why they want to come to Spain.
Under a post-Brexit agreement currently being negotiated, the best case scenario will see Gibraltar treated as if it was within the Schengen area despite not being a part of the EU.
This would therefore allow the continued freedom of movement over the border.
Under the worst case ‘no deal’ scenario, the European Commission could demand that Spain start carrying out the kind of checks on passengers and goods at La Verja that are performed at the EU’s external borders.
Both sides have expressed strong commitment to continuing with the status quo to maintain smooth circulation between the Rock and the economically depressed Spanish side of the border.
Some 10,000 cross border workers who live in Spain but are employed on the Rock cross the frontier each day.
Over the years there have been frequent flare ups at the border. In 1969 Spain’s fascist dictator General Francisco Franco closed the border entirely and the Rock was cut off for the next 16 years.
A spokesperson at the British Embassy in Madrid said that ‘the authorities in Spain set and enforce entry rules’.
They reminded travellers that those entering the Schengen zone at Spanish border control may need to ‘show a return or onward ticket, show you have enough money for your stay, show proof of accommodation for your stay, for example, a hotel booking confirmation, proof of address if visiting your own property (e.g. second home), or an invitation from your host or proof of their address if staying with a third party, friends or family’.
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