Spain shuts Gibraltar border

2003-11-03 11:41

Gibraltar - Spain ordered on Monday the closure of its border with Gibraltar after the arrival in the British overseas territory of the cruise ship Aurora, whose passengers have been stricken by a highly contagious stomach virus, officials said.

A large queue of cars and pedestrians was already gathering on the Spanish side of the border, made up mainly of several thousand Spanish workers who cross daily into Gibraltar for work, a correspondent reported.

A person queuing on the Spanish side said a large contingent of Spanish riot police had gathered in the border area, while Spain had put down barriers to stop vehicles from travelling into Gibraltar

The ship, over a quarter of whose 1 900 passengers have suffered from the viral gastroenteritis, was cleared a day earlier to dock in Gibraltar by the local government.

Gibraltar health officials will only allow healthy passengers to disembark from the ship, which arrived in the territory early on Monday, a Gibraltar government spokesman said.

The ship, which is on its way back to Southampton, England, sailed to Gibraltar after Greek authorities refused to allow it to dock on Friday at the Greek port of Piraeus outside Athens.

This is the first closure of Spain's border with Gibraltar, which is situated on the northern side of the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea, since 1969. Free travel between the two sides was only fully restored in 1985.

A spokesman for Gibraltar's government said that there was no justification for Madrid's decision to close the border.

The Spanish government said that the Minister of Health, Ana Pastor, has travelled to a location close to the border with the Gibraltar to co-ordinate its actions.

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