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Postcard

How a Traffic Jam Became an International Incident

Talk about an international crisis -- Gilbraltar authorities accused Spain of inflicting "torture" on travelers trying to cross the border this weekend. Officials complained about six-hour waits, massive traffic jams, lengthy searches and "unnecessary delays" at the Andalusian border. 

Thousands of cars leaving the tiny territory for Spain were held up. British officials voiced concerns that Spanish officials were deliberately causing the long delays. Gibraltar's chief minister told BBC that Spain was "bullying" the British territory in response to the construction of an artificial reef to "prevent Spanish fishermen fishing in a manner that is contrary to our law."


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This is just the latest chapter in contentious relations between the two. A 1999 agreement allowed a restricted number of Spanish boats to work in the sea around Gibraltar, but in the spring of 2012, a dispute over fishing methods and licenses escalated, leading to several arguments between fishermen and police.

The border wait time are back to normal now after British foreign secretary William Hague put in a call to his Spanish counterpart. Below, via Reuters, a peek into life along the sometimes contentious European border:


A Spanish man rides his bicycle with his ID card in his mouth, to show police, while drivers (R) wait in line to enter to Spain at its border with the British Colony of Gibraltar in Gibraltar, July 29, 2013. (REUTERS/Jon Nazca)


Drivers and motorcyclists wait to enter to Spain at its border with the British Colony of Gibraltar in Gibraltar, southern Spain July 29, 2013. (REUTERS/Jon Nazca)


The rock of the British Colony of Gibraltar (background) is seen between fishing boats as a man collects scrap metal at the port of La Linea de la Concepcion, southern Spain May 18, 2012. (REUTERS/Jon Nazca)


A Spanish man (C) argues with a Spanish police officer during a demonstration of Spanish workers, who work in the British Colony of Gibraltar to defend their interests and the good relations between them and people of the colony, at the entrance of the Spanish border with Gibraltar in La Linea de la Concepcion, southern Spain, May 25, 2012. (REUTERS/Jon Nazca)


A woman talks on her phone as she looks through a hole at the entrance of the British Colony of Gibraltar in La Linea de la Concepcion, southern Spain May 25, 2012. (REUTERS/Jon Nazca)


A man fishes in front of the Rock of Gibraltar (back), in La Linea de la Concepcion, southern Spain May 28, 2012. (REUTERS/Jon Nazca)


Pedestrians leave the British colony of Gibraltar to Spain, crossing a road at the airport, in Gibraltar May 25, 2012. (REUTERS/Jon Nazca)


Spanish fishermen from the "Divina Providencia" fishing boat (R) talk with a Spanish Civil Guard as they are escorted while fishing at Algeciras Bay, next to three Gibraltar police boats (unseen), in La Linea de la Concepcion, southern Spain, May 29, 2012. (REUTERS/Jon Nazca) 


The rock of the British Colony of Gibraltar (back) is seen during sunset from La Linea de la Concepcion, southern Spain May 25, 2012. (REUTERS/Jon Nazca) 

Keywords: Gibraltar, Spain, Borders

Mark Byrnes is an associate editor at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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