The policeman looked at my documents, not quite sure what to do with me.
He was not the first confused policeman of the day. On entering Spain yesterday I was told I had to contact the Barcelona police headquarters urgently. It appears I am on some kind of list and have to tell them what I am doing and where I am going.
Immigration looked like they were about to go on lunch and did not really want to process me. For a moment it looked like they were going to detain me and let my family and friends carry on. I was allowed to go on my way after I had provided all my address’ in Spain and the UK. They also wanted my mobile numbers. I had a feeling they wanted to get back to the football on TV. Having a press pass in my wallet may also have helped.
Immigration were polite and courteous, I had no idea why I needed to be questioned or register my whereabouts. I am not sure they did either. To be honest I didn’t really know the complete address of the villa and so just gave them the area.
I tried the numbers I’d been given and got only a fax machine, so I spent the next few hours contacting people in my networks. Two things I am really grateful for.. My friends on Twitter and my Vodafone sim. Where I am has no phone system and little to no mobile connectivity, 3G or otherwise. Placing my Vodafone sim in a MiFi on the roof gets me a basic data connection. Enough to tweet and send small emails via Vodafone ES. A little solar panel keeps it charged.
Knowing there were so many people ready to help should I need it, or to translate anything if I needed that, really put my mind in a more composed place. That said, most of last night I lay awake half expecting the police to kick down the door as I must have appeared to have gone to ground.
Brian, the local legal expert and expat picked me up this morning and educated me on the local police infrastructure. Complicated. So much so that it could quite easily be played off against itself.
We spent a good few hours driving round. First we visited the local Montserrat police station. Phone calls were made, computer keys were tapped till the commanding officer of the station pulled up on an off road police bike and told us this wasn’t a matter for his jurisdiction. Then we drove to Turis. A brand new police building that looked more like a warehouse. There was a large police meeting in progress when we got there involving all three main echelons of Spanish law enforcement. With so many guns on hips I was glad to sneak off and grab a coffee while they attended to business.
At that moment I was still off the radar.. Half of me wanted to just get on with the holiday and face the music on exiting the country. I knew I would always have one eye on the door though and every car that passed the villa in the night would sound like a police car.
The sensible half of me was desperate to know what kind of watch list I am on. Why can I be shaking hands with the UK Prime Minister on Monday and detained by the Spanish authorities on Wednesday?
The Turis police force didn’t seem to know either. They seem to think my recent travel to Pakistan (for the British Council) may have something to do with it. They looked at my passport, my driving licence and my press pass. There was no alert out asking for me to make my presence known. Not as far as they were concerned.
Perhaps there is a cursor on a screen somewhere in an office in Barcelona flashing at the end of my name.
I am happy I’ve done all I can and yet would still like to know why I am listed and on what list.
Right now though I’m on holiday.
It is quite possible that recent changes to Interpol’s global passport alerting system have flagged that visitors who have been to X, Y, Z countries in the last A,B,C period of time should at least be asked a minimum of questions. It may equally be the case that this ‘instruction’ is now available to the Spanish border agents who have not been given enough information to know what to do about it. Unlike the UK/US, they don’t have dedicated translators in one of the 140 common world languages. Now – if you’d landed at Alicante or Malaga, that might have been a different story where most of the local police have at least a passing knowledge of English. Valencia is very Spanish, despite its proximity to large ex-pat enclaves. So I guess you lucked out.
BTW – I am VERY surprised the border and police guys allowed you to take their pic.
Agree re: the pics … Hope they knew about them ;)Good luck with the rest of your holiday. Hope it all works out fine.
the candle worked. (?) enjoy the holiday…
Hope everything is ok *hugs*. Sounds like you’ve done all you can. Enjoy the rest of your holiday now
Very clever: Ive done a couple warzones as a freelance journo and Im sorry to say youre prob imagining things. Nobodys out to get you. Great way to lure in readers though and sell shit – basically running a big blog on marketing services and goods, posting business names here and there. Making it sound like the The Man is out to get you. Boy have I got some recommendations of people you should speak with.