First day of land border controls in Spain to fight coronavirus

Few incidents were reported at Catalonia's frontier with France, as entry is restricted to Spanish nationals, residents, and goods

Police check at the French border at Pertús on March 17, 2020 (by Aleix Freixas)
Police check at the French border at Pertús on March 17, 2020 (by Aleix Freixas) / ACN

ACN | Madrid

March 17, 2020 12:28 PM

Tuesday began with police controls at Spain's land borders, with only Spanish nationals, residents, some special cases, and goods allowed to cross the frontier.

The measure brought in at midnight saw police turn some vehicles away, although things were generally quiet on Catalonia's border with France, at Jonquera and Pertús.

The controls did not extend to the borders with Andorra in the north or Gibraltar in the south, while the borders at Spain's ports and airports remain open.

Yet, when Spain's interior minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska announced the measure on Monday, he did not rule out closing sea and air borders if it becomes necessary.

The minister repeated this message in a radio interview on Tuesday, and added that it is "reasonable and probable" to expect the state of alarm in Spain to be extended.

When announcing the measure on Monday, the minister said: "Our purpose is to flatten the curve of people infected with the virus, that is our main objective."

Measure allowed by Schengen Agreement

The measure, which will remain in force as long as the health crisis lasts, is allowed under article 28 of the Schengen Agreement that abolished border controls in the EU.

Article 28 of the treaty ensuring the free movement of people within the union, allows EU member states to restore border controls in "exceptional" situations.

The Catalan government welcomed the decision to restore land border controls, but it also said that the move does not go far enough.

The authorities had petitioned Madrid to decree that people in Catalonia stay at home, but Pedro Sánchez's government refused, arguing that any response must be global.