4 Apr, 2024 @ 13:27
1 min read

Cruise ship stranded in Barcelona with passengers confined due to set sail for Venice today, after Spain begins deportation of 69 Bolivians on board

Msc Orchestra
MSC Orchestra

THERE may be worse places to be confined than a luxury ship, but that was small comfort for the 1,500 passengers on an MSC cruise who were not allowed to disembark this week in Barcelona after 69 Bolivians on board were discovered to be carrying fake visas for entry into the Schengen area.

After a delay of several days to its itinerary, the vessel was finally allowed to set sail on Thursday and resume the journey through the Mediterranean toward Venice – albeit without the Bolivians. 

The incident began on Tuesday when the MSC Armonia, which had originally set sail in March from Brazil, arrived in Barcelona port at 7am on Tuesday morning. 

Having been notified that the group of 69 Bolivians – which included women and children – were not in possession of the proper paperwork, the Spanish police refused to allow any of the passengers off the ship.

The situation saw major negotiations on Wednesday, according to a report in Spanish daily El Pais, involving the central government delegation in Barcelona, the police, the port authorities, MSC, the Bolivian embassy and a duty judge from Barcelona. 

What’s more, family members of the 69 Bolivians were anxiously waiting in the port, having come expecting to welcome their loved ones into Spain. 

Relatives told El Pais that the group had been victim of a scam, and that they had been sold a ‘complete pack’ by a travel agency that included the cruise and also a visa to enter Spain. 

However, these fake documents were not detected by MSC before the cruise began, and it was only when they were transmitted by the company to the Spanish authorities that the issue was detected.

Msc Orchestra
An MSC cruise ship in a file photo.

MSC will now have to foot the bill for the cost of the deportation process, after the Bolivians were finally removed from the ship on Thursday morning. 

They were taken to a ‘transit area’ where they were ‘denied access to Spanish territory’, the central government’s delegation in Barcelona reported earlier today. 

The group will, however, be spending a little bit more time at sea before they are most likely flown back to Bolivia. MSC will be putting them up on a ferry that was due to arrive in Barcelona port today from Italy, and they will remain on board, in Barcelona port, until they are finally sent home. 

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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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