Ships hosting Spanish police to leave Catalonia

Vessels to depart Barcelona port on December 31 and January 2, as Spain decides on gradual withdrawal of officers


The GNV Azzurro in the Port of Tarragona by order of Spain (by Roger Segura)
The GNV Azzurro in the Port of Tarragona by order of Spain (by Roger Segura) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

December 28, 2017 06:48 PM

Two ships housing Spanish police officers will leave the Port of Barcelona in the coming days. One of the vessels, called GNV Azzurra, will leave on the morning of December 31, while the Rhapsody will depart on the night of January 2. The vessels will leave Catalonia after the Spanish Ministry for Home Affairs decided to withdraw the extra police officers deployed in Catalonia.

The withdrawal of Spanish police from the country will take place gradually, after hundreds of officers were deployed in September, with the aim of preventing the independence referendum on October 1. However, most of the officers have remained in Catalonia until after the election on December 21.

First ship left in November

The first of the cruise ships hosting Spanish police officers deployed in Catalonia left the port of Barcelona on November 16. The Moby Dada had become infamous due to it being decorated with Warner Brothers’ cartoon characters. The police officers who had been staying on the ship were relocated to Catalan hotels. Some days later, another ship accommodating Spanish police officers left the Port of Tarragona.

In Catalonia to stop October 1 referendum

The Spanish government decided to send thousands of police officers to Catalonia in the run-up to the October 1 referendum. The extra deployment of police officers was aimed at stopping the vote on independence.

Their actions against voters on the day of the ballot, with the use of batons, tear gas and rubber bullets, caused around 900 injuries, according to the Catalan Ministry of Health. The police officers have remained in Catalonia ever since.

Police operation, a ‘state secret’

The Spanish government has refused to provide any information on the deployment of police officers in Catalonia. While the officers have been in Catalonia since September, before the October 1 referendum, the exact number of officers and the cost of the police operation have not yet been disclosed. According to El País newspaper, the Spanish government has classified the operation as a “state secret”.

Some lawmakers in the Spanish Congress have inquired about the operation, but the only response they have received is that the Spanish Law of Official Secrets states that the “security plans of institutions and public authorities” are classified as ‘private’, so they are not obliged to share information about it.