‘Obsessive’ Spain blocks Gibraltar’s typhoon aid

British and Gibraltarian MPs have slammed Spain for blocking emergency food and aid from the Rock destined for the typhoon-hit Philippines.

'Obsessive' Spain blocks Gibraltar's typhoon aid
Gibraltar's aid wasn’t allowed to enter Spain, where it was due to be shipped from the Spanish port city of Algerciras to the Red Cross in the Philippine capital of Manila. Photo: Noel Celis/AFP

Spain's customs officials delayed the departure of the 20-foot container packed with food, blankets, vitamins and drinking water until after Christmas.

The charity drive from Gibraltar wasn’t allowed to enter Spain, where it was due to be shipped from the southern Spanish port city of Algerciras to the Red Cross in the Philippine capital of Manila.

“European legislation doesn’t allow us to import produce meant for human and animal consumption,” Luis González, Spain’s Head of Customs Authorities in Gibraltar’s neighbouring Spanish town of La Línea, told The Telegraph.

The UK’s Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell said the delay by Spanish authorities was politically driven, accusing them of acting in a “hateful fashion”.

“Relations between Britain and Spain are at an all-time low over their continuing bullying of Gibraltar,” Rosindell told the Telegraph.

“We are fast reaching a point where Britain will have no choice but to show Madrid – in a drastic way – that their behaviour will not be tolerated.

“It is disgusting that the poor people of the Philippines should now be made to suffer due to this Spanish obsession,” he added.

MEP Graham Watson called the blockade of emergency aid to the typhoon-hit Philippines “absolutely appalling” and said he would be raising the matter with the EU’s Home Affairs Comissioner Cecilia Malström.

The €700 worth of food and aid will be picked up directly from Gibraltar on December 29th, Spanish news agency Europa Press reported on Sunday.

Tensions between the tiny UK territory of Gibraltar and Spain have flared since Gibraltar began placing concrete blocks just off its shore in July, a move it said would improve fishing.

Spain said the blocks prevented Spanish fishing fleet from accessing traditional fishing grounds, and retaliated with thorough customs checks at the Spain–Gibraltar border. This led to long queues and plenty of diplomatic wrangling.

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Gibraltar holds referendum on its draconian abortion laws

Gibraltar heads to the polls on Thursday to vote on plans to ease abortion laws which currently carry possible life sentences for offenders, in a referendum delayed for over a year by the coronavirus pandemic.

Gibraltar holds referendum on its draconian abortion laws
A woman wears a t-shirt reading " Gibraltar for Yes!" outside a polling station in Gibraltar, on June 24, 2021. Photo: Jorge Guerrero/AFP

The issue has exposed sharply opposing views within this tiny, normally closely-knit British enclave at the southernmost tip of Spain, which is home to some 32,000 people.

The referendum was initially slated for March 19 2020 but a week ahead of the vote it was postponed as virus cases began spiralling at the start of the pandemic.Except in cases where it would save the mother’s life, abortion is currently banned in Gibraltar on pain of life imprisonment, although such a penalty has not been applied in modern times.

The government is proposing changes to the law to allow abortion where a woman’s mental or physical health is at risk — such as in cases of rape or incest — or when foetuses have fatal physical defects.

Although the changes have already been approved by Gibraltar’s parliament, the referendum will decide whether or not that amended law be brought into force.

Under the changes, a woman would be able to undergo an abortion up to 12 weeks into her pregnancy if her mental or physical health is deemed at risk, or beyond if such damage would be grave and permanent.

There would be no time limit on cases involving fatal foetal anomaly.

Until now, women wanting to have an abortion have had to travel to Spain or to Britain to undergo the procedure.

Chief Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo and his wife Justine Olivero leave a polling station after casting their ballots. Photo: JORGE GUERRERO/AFP

– ‘In Gibraltar’s best interests’ –

Ahead of the vote, both sides have been campaigning hard, with Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and two other party leaders releasing a video urging people to vote “Yes” to the proposed amendment to the crimes act that will regulate abortions in Gibraltar.

“My personal, professional & political opinion on the abortion referendum: it is in #Gibraltar’s best interests to #VoteYes on Thursday 24th June,” Picardo tweeted.

“No” campaigners have also been rallying support with hundreds of people dressed in pink and purple joining a pro-life “Save Babies, vote no” march through the city centre last week, chanting “We vote no!”

On the ballot, voters will be asked: “Should the Crimes (Amendment) Act 2019, that defines the circumstances which would allow abortion in Gibraltar, come into force?”

If the changes are approved, the law is expected to take effect fairly quickly although officials have not yet laid out a timeline.

The proposed changes came after Britain’s Supreme Court ruled in June 2018 that Northern Ireland’s abortion laws, which at the time were almost identical to Gibraltar’s, were incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

“It is therefore clear that if the equivalent law on abortion in Northern Ireland was in breach of the Convention, our identical, archaic law is too,” wrote Picardo in an op-ed in Wednesday’s Gibraltar Chronicle.

“It is our duty to vote to stop this ongoing breach.”

Picardo has said he believed the changes were long overdue and that the plans would be approved “by a very large majority”.