Around 1,000 people denied entry into Spain through Algarve since borders closed

Since the borders between Portugal and Spain closed on March 17, around 1,000 people have been barred from entering Spain through the Algarve by border authorities.

Explaining the reasons, Maria Angeles, Spanish coordinator of the Castro Marim-Ayamonte Police and Customs Cooperation Centre, said “they were either not Spanish citizens or residents, or did not fit into the exceptional regime created by the Spanish government”.

“Foreign press” is also not allowed entry into Spain, reports Lusa news agency whose reporters were barred at the border when they attempted to conduct a report on the mobility of cross-border workers.

“The instructions we have are that reporters are not cross-border workers, which is why we cannot allow them to enter (Spanish territory),” Angeles told Lusa.

While traffic between Castro Marim and Ayamonte was “much more intense” in the first days after the borders were closed, as many European citizens attempted to return to their countries, now only around 900 people cross the border each day.

Most of them, says the border boss, are cross-border workers or people working in cargo transportation.

Two control stations are set up at each side of the border and are manned by police authorities from both countries.

Lusa reports that the waiting time for drivers crossing the border with adequate justification is quicker, while one vehicle with a Moldovan licence plate was prevented from entering Spain during the two hours the news agency was reporting from the border control station.

A Portuguese citizen working in a shop in Spain told Lusa he has had no issues crossing the border thanks to a ‘justification paper’ from his employer. A Portuguese teacher living in Spain but working at a school in Portugal has also reported “no problems” when crossing the border.

Arnaldo Moreira, a chief inspector for Portugal’s border control authority (SEF), says the “Portuguese and Spanish people understand the seriousness of the current situation and respect authorities’ decisions”.

He told Lusa that 99% of the people trying to enter Portugal have been allowed to – the majority are cross-border workers, truckers and health professionals.

Since the borders were closed, 23,339 people have been allowed into Portugal, while 289 were barred entry and one person was arrested.

Meanwhile, seven Iberian ‘eurocities’ have announced that they will be asking border authorities to ease controls for cross-border workers.

Although the head of the Guadiana ‘eurocity’ – which includes Vila Real de Santo António, Castro Marim and Ayamonte – says he is unaware of any issues, Luís Romão admits businesses have taken a hit as there is a strong correlation between the towns.

The border between Portugal and Spain will remain closed beyond May 14, the Minister of Internal Administration has admitted, adding that a date for reopening borders very much depends on the success of both countries managing the Covid-19 pandemic.