Fear of crossing the Frontier!

By Leo Olivero
Panorama has been the ONLY local media service to extensively cover the serious incidents at the frontier last Sunday.

Disgraceful and Criminal Incidents

Our reporting on the incident the other night has involved interviewing and listening to many locals, residents and others who were victims or got caught up in the Disgraceful and Criminal Incidents on the other side of the frontier.

But before I go any further and before some of the local Let’s Play it Down Brigade start sounding their retreating horns, and this includes certain sections of the press who may accuse me of ‘scaremongering’! or of ‘it’s only hearsay!’ or of anything else that may come to mind. Let me tell some of these people to get off their backside and talk to people on the street, ask, enquire and investigate (it’s not rocket science) and you will hopefully establish the increasing anxiety amongst many people in Gibraltar regarding the growing tension with Spain…But in particular a genuine fear/concern of crossing the frontier into Spain during the present aggressive environment!

The events of Sunday night has to be put into its proper perspective and viewed in its concentrated form without adding any water in order to make it look or taste less palatable or serious than it is.

Those who want to describe the scenes by those so-called Spanish football supporters as ‘high spirited or over exuberance’ have obviously missed the point and purposely ignored the overall environment and tension with Spain that has also been building up between the communities on both sides, but particularly on that side of the border.

Panorama was again the only local media to rightly seek the views of the Government and Foreign Office. Although if I’m honest and frank about this point (which those who know me and follow my articles would know - that’s how I am) I have to say that I expected both the Foreign Office if not the Governor and also the Government of Gibraltar to have issued statements to the people of Gibraltar also condemning these incidents without having to be prompted by this newspaper!

Be that as it may, when the statements did come, they were strongly worded and to the point:

The Foreign Office said: "This must have been distressing for Gibraltarians and others caught up in it. These were acts of hooliganism which should be investigated by the Spanish police." The Gibraltar government for its part said: "Whilst the Government of Gibraltar understands the high spirits in La Linea after Spain's victory in the European Championship, it is totally unacceptable that Gibraltar cars waiting to cross into Gibraltar were singled out for acts of vandalism.” Government condemns all acts of anti-social behaviour and vandalism, particularly those aimed at innocent Gibraltar citizens."

Where the Convent is concerned, I would have liked to have seen some minute aspect included from the new Foreign and Commonwealth Office initiative contained in the recently published overseas territories security, success and sustainability bits of this document that could have been reflected in their statement, these are comments contained in this document reflecting important declarations like: ‘The protection of the Overseas Territories and their people is one of the UK Government’s most important responsibilities. It is included as a National Security Task in the Government’s 2010 National Security Strategy’

Another interesting statement in the new Foreign Office initiative concerns the safeguarding of overseas territories like Gibraltar - it says:

“Our resolve to defend our Overseas Territories remains undiminished. Providing security for the Nation and its Overseas Territories, safe-guarding

Its citizens and their way of life remains the first duty of Government and Defence’

At the very least the Governor should have made a statement. There’s no moving away from the fact that the incident on Sunday was an extremely serious one, had it happened in any other international frontier anywhere else, it would have caused a real humdinger of a diplomatic storm!

In so far as the Government is concerned, again to be frank I would have expected our own government to have been out of the ‘political traps’ first thing last Monday morning, or just after they had assessed the situation demanding from the foreign office some type of top level protest against Spain. This Has Not Been the Case!

Although if I go down the list - I am also critical of the Opposition who politically also appear to have a croaky voice or no voice at all on this matter. The same goes for other local groups and organisations who in the past or another era, would have been much more active and would have launched themselves into orbit somewhere. … How can the people of Gibraltar be subjected to this kind of treatment and then generally passed-off as some high spirited post football celebration.

For me, it’s disturbing really because it appears that not many people are monitoring the situation with Spain as they should, including how the political tension and the atmosphere amongst the communities continues to rise unabated!

Many people are also disturbed of the amount of growing ‘Spanish Mad Hatters’ present on internet Blogs and Social Networking sites who are obsessed with Gibraltar, issuing or threatening all kinds of action and violence. My god, it only takes one of these nutters to really cause a serious if not catastrophic incident, if not in Gib, than to some innocent local family or individual in Spain.

However, in my humble view if the whole incident on Sunday is properly analysed on the basis that Gibraltar and Spain, supposedly share an international frontier and are two EU member states, then could incidents like this and the fact that people fear for their safety and of their property, and for these reasons, many people in Gibraltar are fearful and do not cross the frontier into Spain: NOW… could this be viewed as a ‘prima facie’ case against Spain on the Freedom of Movement and the Fear of Persecution or Violence which are EU Fundamental Rights.

Maybe there are some local lawyers, scholars or individuals who could give their views and interpretation on those EU points I have just described?

Local Residents Shocked, Shaken and Appalled!

Quite obviously many locals have were shocked, shaken and totally appalled by the events last weekend, as I have said there are growing concerns (that was actually there even before the events last week) people now feel intimidated and threatened about crossing the frontier into Spain with their families. This fear has emerged amongst many who now feel that going into Spain is risky, unsafe and potentially dangerous!

But it’s not the incidents of last week alone that worry and concern people, it’s also the growing list of damage caused to property belonging to residents of the Rock. Only last week there were a number of vehicles that fell victim to various forms of criminal damage whilst in Spain. The latest reported to Panorama yesterday by the owners of two more vehicles who at La Canada shopping centre car park had their cars deliberately damaged.

As I have mentioned in my reports on this issue quite a few times recently, the present anti-Gibraltar feeling in Spain has been charged up by the Spanish PP Government and media services over there, this has filtered down to the ordinary Spaniard. But with Gibraltar being renowned as a popular Spanish target, it didn’t take long for the get Gibraltar anti-Spanish hate campaign to get into full flow.

Cross-Frontier Issue of Safety

So to cut this story short because I have to, there is in my opinion a delicate and sensitive issue that has developed and based on events and incidents of the past few weeks, there appears to be a cross-border issue of safety regarding Gibraltar residents travelling to Spain. Not only personal safety to the person but to property.

COMPLAINTS OFFICE NEEDED

One issue that I must also bring up is that Government must make it easier for locals and residents of the Rock and even for locals living in Spain to report any incident involving themselves, family and property. And here I am suggesting an office or a central point at the frontier or other suitable area where people can report any such occurrences!

Some of us may have to wake up to the reality that the present problem with Spain may not go away anytime soon, particularly whilst the PP administration is in power.

Yet whatever reason some people may want to make political capital of what caused the present problem with Spain, I say to those people that Gibraltar has the legitimate and international right to implement, enforce and ensure that its laws are respected and that our sovereign territorial waters do not continue as an illegal Spanish fish farm any longer.

However the issue remains that no one wants to increase the present tension or make matters worse. But having said that Gibraltar as a modern 21st century nation cannot keep turning the other cheek so as to avoid or not appear to be creating tension or further animosity or ill feeling towards our neighbour - who incidentally couldn’t care monkeys how we feel on this side of the frontier!

06-07-12

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