Border queues draw flak from cross-border workers

23rd November 2023
By Maria Jesus Corrales

The long queues to enter and exit Gibraltar during peak hours in recent days sparked complaints yesterday from many cross-border workers angered by the delays.

Among them were Spanish and EU nationals who had been forced to wait while Policia Nacional officers checked the documentation of every person crossing the border to ensure compliance with Schengen rules, particularly for non-EU nationals.

Spain’s Ministry of the Interior told the Chronicle that no changes had been introduced in the regulations for entering and leaving Spain, or the scrutiny being applied to travellers.

On the ground though, it was clear Spanish immigration officers were applying a stricter interpretation of Schengen rules regarding citizens carrying non-EU passports.

Schengen rules require third country nationals – meaning anyone with a non-EU passport, including those from countries like the UK which do not require a visa for entry – to justify their reason for travel and provide documentary proof of where they will stay, proof of their date of return and evidence that they can fund their time in the Schengen area.

The UK Government applies similar rules for non-resident EU nationals entering the UK.

While the requirements apply to all third country nationals, not everyone crossing a Schengen border would normally be checked as immigration guards can apply checks randomly.

Additionally, for now at least, holders of non-EU passports – including British passports – with a Gibraltar red ID card are being exempted from the Schengen requirements.

This week, the tighter person-by-person checks slowed down border flow and led to queues during busy periods and stressful situations on the ground, especially when people did not meet the Schengen requirements and were turned back.

The worst days were in the immediate wake of last Friday’s visit by the Princess Royal, but by Wednesday the situation at the border was more fluid.

Even so, the cross-border workers’ association, Ascteg, said the queues were "abusive and the height of injustice due to the disturbances they cause" to cross-border workers.

Ascteg accused Spain’s ministers of Foreign Affairs and Interior of being "guilty of the harm done to us at the border."

It added that these queues "are starting to resemble those we were forced to endure by Minister Margallo for reasons unknown to us”.