British passenger Stuart Miller (pictured), a 47-year-old offshore worker from Manchester, said the situation at the Spanish airport was ‘absolutely diabolical’
Spanish border officials refused entry to dozens of Britons and sent them back to Manchester on the same plane despite them having post-Brexit residency.
Forty passengers were left angry and confused after they were turned away from Alicante on Monday and sent home, with their luggage stuck in Spain until Friday.
Immigration officials in Alicante had written to the Britons asking them to collect their new residency permits or TIE Cards, a system put in place after Brexit.
The passengers were allowed to leave the UK despite the current ban on foreign travel because people who are resident abroad are not subject to the £5,000 fine for leaving Britain.
And the UK government says paperwork proving a successful residency application should be enough to enter Spain.
But passengers say they were denied entry by obstructive border guards who were flanked by armed police.
Stuart Miller, a 47-year-old offshore worker from Manchester, told Olive Press that the situation was ‘absolutely diabolical’ and asked: ‘What more proof do you need of residency?’.
Passengers say Ryanair airport staff had approved their departure from Manchester but they were surprised to find a sign at the Spanish terminal saying ‘NO TIE CARD, NO ENTRY’.
The stranded passengers included a woman who had travelled to Spain to see her sick father who was alone in hospital.
British passengers had been told by immigration officials in Alicante (file photo) to collect their residency permits, which the UK government says should be enough to enter Spain
Spain seeks to repatriate 3,000 tourists from Morocco
Madrid said today it was working to repatriate some 3,000 Spanish tourists who are stranded in Morocco after it suddenly imposed a blockade on passenger flights to Spain because of the pandemic.
The Moroccan government announced on Monday that all passenger flights to and from Spain and France would be suspended from midnight Tuesday to contain the spread of the virus.
‘This is another example of how we have to be extremely responsible with our trips at this moment,’ said foreign minister Arancha Gonzalez.
The government is looking into ways to help Spaniards who are affected by the flight ban to get home, the minister added, without giving details.
The ban comes during Easter week, a peak travel period as Thursday and Friday are holidays in much of Spain.
Morocco is one of Africa’s most popular tourist destinations, welcoming 13 million foreign tourists in 2019, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.
Miller said the the Britons’ ‘fury’ had been heightened by the fact that armed police were patrolling the checkpoint in addition to the border agents.
Those refused entry had to get back on board the plane they had just flown on, along with scores of others making a one-way trip from Alicante.
As the dozens of passengers reboarded the plane, the flight was subsequently delayed, adding further to tension in the cabin.
To rub salt in the wound, they were then informed that their hold luggage would not be sent back to Manchester until Good Friday, April 2.
Miller said: ‘There was no advice, no help and – to be fair – no good reason for us being turned back at Alicante.’
Mr Miller’s wife Caz warned other travellers: ‘Whatever paperwork you have with you, and whoever tells you that you’re okay to travel, be prepared to be carted back on to the plane and sent back.’
She added: ‘The most confusing thing is the double-standards. I think the airport policy depends on nothing more than the mood of the officials at the border.’
At the time of the flight, Spain was only allowing those who could prove residency in the country to enter from Britain because of Covid-19 restrictions.
Early confusion when the ban came in on December 23 saw people being turned away despite having the correct paperwork to prove residency.
But the UK government says that Spanish authorities have ‘formally confirmed’ that relevant paperwork should be enough to enter the country.
The TIE Card system was introduced after Brexit to confirm residency for UK nationals who are allowed to stay under the EU withdrawal agreement.
Passengers were sent back to Manchester Airport (pictured) with their luggage only due to follow four days later in an additional setback
Documents that should be accepted include a ‘receipt of application for the TIE’ or a ‘confirmation of the positive outcome of your residence application,’ the UK says.
Ryanair staff had apparently assured travellers that their documentation, including passports and coronavirus tests, was sufficient to get into Spain.
As it happens, Spain is loosening its border restrictions from this week – but Britain’s continued ban on foreign holidays makes a resumption of tourism unlikely.
A spokesman at the British Embassy in Madrid said they had been made aware that travellers had faced issues at Alicante-Elche airport.
‘When making plans to travel from the UK to Spain, a UK national must make sure that they meet both the requirements to leave the UK and those to enter Spain, bearing in mind that they are not the same,’ the spokesman said,
‘Until 6pm on March 30 only those who are legally resident or have sufficient documentation to prove residency [were] allowed to enter Spain,’ they said.
From March 31, entry to Spain will also be granted to passengers who can prove that their journey is essential, as well as to legal residents.
The embassy spokesman added: ‘Ultimately, the decision on whether to grant entry into Spain is made by Spanish border officials.’