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Last Updated: Monday, 3 November, 2003, 17:38 GMT
Ship misery inflames border row
By the BBC's Lesley Ashmall
In Gibraltar

I'm not sure what was brighter - the thousands of lights beaming through the darkness from the Aurora itself, or the camera lamps and flash bulbs from the impatient media pack awaiting its arrival ashore.

Gibraltar PC and Aurora passenger
Passenger happy to get ashore
But there was no mass exodus from the ship - instead frustrated passengers had to wait another hour and a half for clearance from Gibraltar's director of public health before they were finally allowed to disembark.

Some ran to the shops; some ran to the media's cameras and microphones; most looked a little bemused, not sure what all the fuss was about.

"Yes, a lot of us have been sick," said Stuart Reese from Manchester, "but the Greeks were wrong to kick us out".


Although they were allowed ashore they were not free to do what they wanted.

Ten-year-old Stephanie Manley wanted to go across to Spain to go on a trip to see the dolphins that live in the Straits of Gibraltar, but instead she had to make do with the Barbary monkeys that inhabit the Rock.

Because the Spaniards, suddenly and without warning, had closed the frontier.

It was blocked off just as the Aurora docked, and as thousands began the commute to work.

Three thousand Spaniards work in the British colony. Hotels, restaurants and offices had to cope without them.


At the checkpoint itself British Police officers in yellow fluorescent jackets began to put out crowd control barriers and were waving vehicles away.

Spanish border police
Spain has blocked the border
A small crowd did gather.

They were not necessarily wanting to cross but had gone to make a point to the gathering media.

They don't like Spain, and this was the reason why.

"With friends like this, who needs enemies?," said Joseph Soica.

And certainly relations looked confrontational.

As the British police cars and vans gathered on the Gibraltar side, scores of blue Spanish police vehicles blocked the road on the Spanish side.

It is the first time the border has been closed by the Spanish since an unofficial blockade by fishermen three years ago.

If it has bemused and irritated the people of Gibraltar, it has angered many Spaniards and holidaymakers who have been stranded in Spain.

At one point hundreds of frustrated people were trying to get into the colony, not even knowing why the border was closed.

Meanwhile, the Aurora's passengers enjoyed the warm but thin autumnal sun, and the cheap duty free shopping.

Their 17-day holiday may be remembered by very many people for a very long time.


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