Spaniards report xenophobic attacks after Brexit vote

Spaniards living in the UK have reported facing more discrimination, as police investigate a rise in racist and xenophobic attacks since the UK voted to leave the EU.

Spaniards report xenophobic attacks after Brexit vote
Photo: AFP.

One case that has grabbed Spanish headlines recently is that of a Spanish school in London that found xenophobic graffiti daubed across its walls. 

The Vicente Cañada Blanch Institute in London’s Notting Hill neighborhood found the words “foreign pack” scrawled on a gate just before the referendum vote on June 23rd.

The school with some 500 students, most of whom are Spanish, is concerned that such incidents may be prompted again when they incorporate the Spanish flag into the uniform next year, according to newspaper El Pais.

“With the uniform it will be much easier to identify the children as foreigners. We’re afraid that they will be attacked,” parent Juan Miguel Garrido told the newspaper

British police reported last week that there has been a rise of 57 percent in the number of hate crimes reported since the vote. Videos posted on social media have gone viral, showing people shouting down others they believe to be non-British.

The UK has seen a surge in Spanish people flocking to move there for work in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis that has hit the Iberian country particularly hard.

Between 2015 and 2016 alone, officials recorded a jump of more than 11,000 more Spaniards living in the UK.

In another incident, a Spanish tapas restaurant in Honor Oak, southeast London, was attacked the Sunday after the Brexit results came in when someone threw a brick through the window, according to online newspaper El Español. But no Spaniards work at the restaurant.

A nearby Turkish restaurant also had its windows smashed and police have been investigating the attacks.

Other Spaniards in the UK told 20minutos that since the Brexit vote, the atmosphere towards them has been “cold” and that there have been more altercations.

One woman who has lived in Birmingham for six years told the Spanish daily that she has witnessed two occasions where teenagers yelled at foreigners to “go back to your country”, though she also said “we Spaniards pass unnoticed”.

Still, sometimes her co-workers say things with both sarcasm and sincerity like “when will you be deported?”

And while others said that they had not faced any discrimination first-hand, they did say the situation was “troubling”.

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Reciprocal healthcare agreements between Spain and Gibraltar end

The Spanish government has confirmed that it will not extend its reciprocal healthcare agreements with Gibraltar, meaning that from July 1st 2022, it will come to an end.

Reciprocal healthcare agreements between Spain and Gibraltar end

When the UK left the EU on December 31st 2020, both sides agreed that the UK’s EHIC European healthcare cards could still be used until their expiry dates.

This card provided British travellers with free state-provided medical care in the EU in case of emergencies.

Beyond their five year period of validity, EHIC cards are no longer valid and travellers have to apply for the new Global Heath Insurance Card (GHIC) instead. 

Spain made a separate agreement with Gibraltar under its Royal Brexit Decree in which unilateral arrangements would be maintained in the territory and extended until June 30th 2022.

During the meeting of the Spanish Council of Ministers on Tuesday, the Spanish Government decided not to extend the agreement further, meaning that residents of Gibraltar will no longer be able to benefit from it.

In a statement the government of Gibraltar said: “It would have been HMGoG’s preference for these arrangements, which deeply affect citizens on either side of the border on matters as essential as healthcare, to have been maintained. Indeed, HMGoG was prepared to continue with them”.

“However, because reciprocity is a key element to these arrangements which cannot work without coordination and provisions for reimbursement of costs etc., HMGoG is left with no option but to discontinue them also in so far as treatment in Gibraltar is concerned,” it continued. 

What does this mean?

Gibraltar residents insured under Gibraltar’s Group Practice Medical Scheme will, after 30th June 2022, no longer be able to access free emergency healthcare in Spain during a temporary stay in the country. 

Those who are residents in Spain who travel over to Gibraltar will not have access to free healthcare on The Rock either. 

As a consequence, if a resident of Gibraltar falls ill or has an accident while over the border in Spain or the same for a Spanish resident in Gibraltar, they will have to pay for healthcare.

The government of Gibraltar is encouraging its citizens from July 1st 2022 to have appropriate travel insurance with medical cover each time they visit Spain.

This means that even those who are hopping over the border for few hours such as for a shopping trip or going out for dinner will have to make sure that they have adequate health insurance. 

“Where medical attention is required the costs incurred may be considerable, so you should ensure you have adequate insurance cover or alternatively the means to pay,” the Gibraltar government said in their statement.