Spain prevents British residents from flying back home amid Brexit confusion

British passengers returning to their homes in Spain experienced moments of tension and confusion at airports after Brexit came into force.

British and Spanish authorities have had to reassure British citizens residing in Spain about their travel rights after several complained that they had been denied entry this weekend, amid restrictions from the pandemic and the confusion about the documentation that had to be presented to enter the country.

The British Embassy in Madrid asked the Spanish authorities to show flexibility after the harrowing experiences of the passengers. Some were allegedly denied permission to board a flight from London to Madrid, while others were sent back after arriving in Barcelona.

“This should not be happening,” the British Embassy said in a Facebook post. And he added that the documents that British residents in Spain were presenting at airports were valid.

Under current coronavirus restrictions, Spain is limiting travel from the UK to only Spanish nationals and people legally residing in Spain, until January 19. Meanwhile, the post-Brexit transition period ended on New Years, which has led to a change in travel and residence rules.

Max Duncan, a journalist, says he was among nine people who were not allowed to board a joint British Airways and Iberia flight from London Heathrow Airport to Madrid on Saturday because they were told they did not have the documentation. correct.

Both the British government and information from the Spanish authorities had previously said that residence documents – the NIE (or DNI for foreigners) and a new version, the TIE (Foreigner Identity Card) – would be valid after Brexit.

Duncan says that passengers were told at the airport that Spain only accepted the new TIE card, contrary to official recommendation.

Others complained on social media that the Barcelona authorities did not accept the NIE document.

Patricia Moody, a 69-year-old retiree who has been living in Zurgena, southern Spain, for almost four years, was among the group that was banned from boarding Madrid.

Moody said that she and her husband, who she says needs to see her doctor in Spain, have spent 1,900 pounds sterling (2,140 euros) to get tested for COVID-19, travel to the airport and book new tickets after being tested. denied boarding. His second attempt was also futile.

“During all the Brexit negotiating months, we were always assured that nothing would change for us,” he said. Referring to the airlines and authorities of both countries, he added: “It is horrible and we are suffering from their incompetence.”

The Spanish Embassy in the United Kingdom issued a statement on Sunday afternoon, referring to the problems experienced by people who have been denied boarding.

“The Certificate of Registration of Citizen of the European Union (also known as” green certificate “) and the new” Foreigner Identity Card “are valid proof of residence for UK citizens who wish to return to their homes in Spain All travelers must also carry a valid passport, “the statement said.

He added that UK nationals who had started the residency application process, but did not yet have their new documentation, should also be allowed to board the flights.

The Spanish government has introduced a seven-day grace period starting on January 4, the Spanish Embassy said.

The British Embassy said that after contacting the Spanish authorities “it is pleased to share this important clarification.”

Before this he said that he had received “comments and messages from many UK residents in Spain”, such as students and people who take care of their relatives, who still did not have the necessary documents under current restrictions.

Around 300,000 British citizens are registered as permanent residents in Spain, although before Brexit, many more had been living full or part time in the country without officially registering.

Spain has launched the new TIE system to register permanent foreign residents, but has delays due to the high number of applications.

Euronews asked the Iberia and British Airways press offices for comment.

Iberia responded that it had received an email from the border police on January 1, stating that the EU registration document (the “green certificate”) was not valid proof of residence for UK citizens.

The airline added that it then received a second email on Saturday at 7.30pm rectifying and adding that the document could be used if it was not expired.