By Maria Jesus Corrales
Recent queues at the border for traffic heading both to and from Gibraltar arise from a range of factors that have combined to create “a perfect storm”, according to Spanish officials with direct knowledge of the border.
The factors include a spike in the number of tourists visiting the Rock in August, the deployment of 40 trainee Policia Nacional and Guardia Civil officers at the border, and the price differential for fuel between Spain and Gibraltar.
On the ground, it has meant drivers queueing for up to two hours at times, even late at night.
Spain’s Policia Nacional attributes the queues to the increase in people moving across the border both on foot and in vehicles, in large number tourists, a spokesperson for the Policia Nacional said.
And while he did not directly allude to the new officers, he confirmed that they are already operating on the border to complete their training.
Some weeks ago, the Policia Nacional confirmed that 85 trainee police officers had been deployed to La Línea and Algeciras police stations to bolster numbers during the summer period, when the annual migration of north Africans to and from Morocco sees a huge influx of people in the Campo.
Of the 85 officers, 11 women and 29 men have been assigned to La Línea.
They will be on the training deployment for 11 months and will be on duty in a number of police units, among them on the Spanish side of the border.
There, they are responsible for checking IDs and passports.
The 85 trainee officers had previously completed nine months of theory at the National Police School in Ávila and will now carry out practical work in different units, including the judicial police, public safety, complaints offices, information, immigration and forensics.
They are accompanied at all times by seasoned officers, with one of those assigned as a tutor in each unit.
One Spanish source at the border said: “There are new Guardias Civiles and trainee police officers, but there are also 25 to 30 buses coming in every day.”
“When four buses come together at around 10.30 or 11am, which is very common, those 250 people have to be checked all at once.”
“These, plus those who walk in, the rest of those who drive in and also those who go to catch flights in Gibraltar.”
“And now there is also the difference in the price of petrol, which means that hundreds of Spaniards come in just to fill up their cars with petrol.”
Traditionally, Gibraltar receives an influx in tourists arriving overland each August, coinciding with the Spanish and European holidays.
The Gibraltar Government did not respond to requests for comment on the recent queues