Around 40 people on a flight from Manchester were turned back upon arriving at Alicante-Elche airport in Spain on Tuesday, according to reports.
Describing the situation as “absolutely diabolical”, 47-year-old Mancunian Stuart Miller told Olive Press that a sign was put up at the terminal at Alicante saying: “No TIE card, no entry.”
The TIE cards have been given to British citizens who have successfully gained residency status in Spain after Brexit.
However, the Spanish authorities have previously made clear that other forms of paperwork proving residency before the end of the Brexit transition period would allow people to return to the country.
Mr Miller said he and others had paperwork showing that he been asked to collect his residency cards from local authorities in Spain.
“What more proof do you need of residency? There was no advice, no help and, to be fair, no good reason for us being turned back at Alicante,” he said.
The UK embassy in Madrid confirmed some nationals were turned back and said it “stands ready” to take the matter up with the Spanish authorities if any of them have complaints about the reason they were denied entry.
In a statement, the British embassy said: “We are aware that a number of UK nationals were turned back from Alicante airport at the weekend and we have been in touch with the authorities.
“If you are a UK national who has been turned away and you hold sufficient documentary evidence to prove you have legal residency in Spain … we stand ready to take this up with the Spanish authorities.”
The embassy added that all UK nationals must make sure that they meet entry requirements, adding: “Ultimately, the decision on whether to grant entry into Spain is made by Spanish border officials.”
Sue Wilson, chair of Bremain in Spain, a group advocating for the rights of British migrants living in Spain, said a TIE card should not be essential to prove residency.
“It seems the authorities at Alicante airport were a bit overzealous, shall we say – and chose to apply the rules in their own way by saying people needed a TIE card,” she told The Independent.
“There is no legal requirement for a TIE card, so long as you were already a legal resident before the end of the transition period, and have the paperwork to prove it. Paperwork proving they’d been asked to collect their new residency documents – along with any supporting proof of residency – should be good enough.”
Ms Wilson added: “But it’s not possible to guarantee how individual officials will choose to interpret rules. All we can hope is that this is an isolated incident, and we won’t see it happen again. Anyone with issues getting back [to Spain] should contact the British embassy.”
Post-Brexit rules for Britons living in Spain kicked in earlier this week. From 31 March, those who do not want to apply for Spanish resident status must return home to Britain, because EU freedom of movement laws no longer apply.
EU-wide rules for third countries – which now apply to British citizens – means tourists and second-home owners no longer entitled to spend more than 90 days in EU countries.
Some ex-pats have been returning to Britain before the deadline. Shaun Cromber, who voted for Britain to leave the EU in 2016, told reporters: “Yes I voted out, but I didn’t realise it would come to this.
“My application has been rejected and we are on our way home. The wife is in tears, she’s distraught if I’m honest and I’m not too happy at the prospect of returning back to the UK.”
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