3 Apr, 2024 @ 13:14
2 mins read

Cruise ship nightmare in Spain: 1,500 passengers left stuck on board in Barcelona port after group of passengers ‘found with fake visas’

Msc Grandiosa
MSC Grandiosa

SOME 1,500 passengers on a luxury cruise ship were left stuck on board their vessel in Barcelona port on Tuesday, after Spanish border officials refused to let a group of 69 Bolivian nationals enter the country on the basis they were apparently travelling with false visas. 

The irregularities, police sources told Spanish reporters, were discovered once the MSC cruise ship had departed from its starting point in Brazil, headed for the Mediterranean. 

Despite the problem only affecting the Bolivian nationals, none of the cruise ship passengers were allowed to leave the vessel on Tuesday, much to the consternation of family members of the Bolivians who had gathered in Barcelona to meet their loved ones.

“We are prisoners here, together with the Bolivians,” Rafael Kondlatsch, a 40-year-old Brazilian journalist who was among the passengers, told Spanish daily El País. “They are not giving us any information, they just told us that there was an immigration issue,” he complained. 

The first sign for the rest of the passengers that something was wrong was when dozens of police cars arrived in Barcelona port to receive the ship.

Today, Wednesday, however, all of the passengers apart from the group of Bolivians were told via the ship’s intercom system that MSC was organising a charter flight to Rome for anyone who wanted to take it. 

The occupants of the vessel were also informed that they could leave the ship whenever they liked, provided they took their passport with them and returned before 2am on Thursday, El Pais reported. 

Msc Grandiosa
A file photo of an MSC cruise ship.

Police sources told journalists that MSC knew that the passengers were lacking the proper documents needed to enter the Schengen area before the MSC Armonia arrived in Barcelona. 

The same sources also expressed their concern that cruise ships may be a new method being used by would-be migrants to illegally enter into Spain. 

The Spanish authorities said that they wanted MSC to take responsibility for returning the group of 69 Bolivians back to their country of origin.

The company issued a statement in which it said that it was working with the Spanish authorities ‘to manage the situation with a number of passengers from Bolivia, including families and children, who are travelling with invalid documentation’. 

For the other passengers, however, a solution could not come quickly enough, after they saw their dream holiday ruined. 

“We are locked in, we can’t leave, nor complain, or anything,” Leonor García, 66, told El Pais. “They must give us a solution, or at least a free cruise,” she added. 

The families of the Bolivians, meanwhile, claim that the group of 69 had purchased what they believed to be a cruise that included a visa to legally enter into Spain on arrival. 

“They’ve been victims of fraud,” claimed Luis Zelaya, the uncle of one member of the group. 

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Simon Hunter

Simon Hunter has been living in Madrid since the year 2000 and has worked as a journalist and translator practically since he arrived. For 16 years he was at the English Edition of Spanish daily EL PAÍS, editing the site from 2014 to 2022, and is currently one of the Spain reporters at The Times. He is also a voice actor, and can be heard telling passengers to "mind the gap" on Spain's AVLO high-speed trains.

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