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Anger in Gibraltar after Spanish Customs officers land on Eastern Beach in 'gross violation of British sovereignty'

Anger in Gibraltar after Spanish Customs officers land on Eastern Beach in 'gross violation of British sovereignty'

Chief minister Fabian Picardo has described the action as "potentially the most serious and dangerous incident for many years" as the government coordinates its response with senior officials at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the British Ambassador to Spain

Friday, 3 February 2023

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A joint statement was issued by the government and Governor of Gibraltar on Friday afternoon, 3 February, regarding what it calls a gross violation of British sovereignty by Spanish Customs officers.

The statement referred to an apparent incursion into Gibraltar by the Spanish officers around 5am on Thursday. They are said to have landed on Eastern Beach in a small boat to investigate apparent smuggling activity and two were injured after rocks and stones were hurled at them.

Reports said that one officer needed surgery after the incident, and the other was recovering at home.

Facts still being investigated

In the joint statement, the Gibraltar authorities said the facts of the incident are being investigated but "the incursion into BGTW with Spanish officials landing on Gibraltar's territory is clearly a grave breach of sovereignty and jurisdiction". The statement went on to say that if it is confirmed that Spanish officials discharged their weapons in Gibraltar, such action would be "a very serious breach of the law as well as being reckless and dangerous", especially in an area of dense civilian population, given the proximity of a residential estate in the area.

The Gibraltar government said it was coordinating its response to the incident with senior officials at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the British Ambassador to Spain.

Most serious incident for many years

The authorities have contacted Spanish officials for an explanation of what chief minister Fabian Picardo has described as "a gross violation of British sovereignty and potentially the most serious and dangerous incident for many years".

With regard to claims that Gibraltar police officers were present on Eastern Beach when this incident occurred but did nothing, the government said it had been advised by the Royal Gibraltar Police that this was not the case, and that when they attended the scene they immediately offered the Spanish Customs officers assistance and medical attention, which was refused. It seemed that the Spanish officers' boat had suffered engine failure but they decided to row it back to their patrol ship immediately.

Spanish ministry rejects Gibraltar authorities' statement

F. Morales

On Friday evening the Spanish Ministry of Foreiegn Affairs denied that the zone where the incidents took place was under British sovereignty. A statement issued by the ministry headed by José Manuel Albares condemned the "attack suffered" by the Spanish customs officers and "categorically" rejected the terms used in the joint statement issued by the Gibraltarian authorities regarding the incident.

According to the Spanish government, the statement "is especially incomprehensible" at a time when Spain "has an agreement on the table to create an area of shared prosperity".

"The Spanish government demands efficient measures to fight against the smuggling that is damaging to the entire area and wishes the Spanish officers a rapid recovery," said the statement issued on Friday.

Picardo said the full facts still needed to be determined, but in the meantime he had contacted the Spanish authorities to enquire about the Customs officers who had been injured. He also pointed out that the Spanish authorities know that they can request support from Gibraltar law enforcement if they need to continue a chase into Gibraltar, but it would appear that they did not do so on Thursday.

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