The Gibraltar Government yesterday urged Spain to push ahead with legislation to prohibit the use of large rigid-hulled inflatable boats, pledging the Rock’s “genuine desire” to strengthen cross-border cooperation between law enforcement agencies.
The message came a day after the tragic death of an eight year old child in a collision between two boats off Getares beach in Algeciras.
On Monday evening shortly after news of the child’s death, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo spoke to Algeciras mayor and Partido Popular senator, Jose Ignacio Landaluce, to express condolences on Gibraltar’s behalf.
“This sad incident has moved everyone in Gibraltar and no doubt the whole of the Campo de Gibraltar,” Mr Picardo said.
“There is widespread disbelief that recent events, including an unprovoked attack on off-duty law enforcement agents, have culminated in such a tragedy.”
One of the vessels in the collision was a rigid-hulled inflatable boat [RHIB], smaller than those used by drug traffickers yet of a similar design and equally capable of high speeds.
Although the incident was not directly linked to drug trafficking, it cause widespread outrage across the Campo de Gibraltar and again focused attention on smuggling and its impact on communities in the area.
Juan Ignacio Zoido, Spain’s Minister of the Interior, said that while the RHIB in the incident was not of the type used by smugglers, its two occupants – both of who were arrested after the collision – had previous convictions for drug trafficking.
Spain’s regional and central authorities pledged greater efforts to combat organised crime, while community groups have organised a large protest in Algeciras on Thursday evening.
The Spanish Government has vowed to work with regional authorities to boost law enforcement presence and focus attention too on social initiatives to promote investment, education and job creation.
Yesterday Susana Díaz, the president of the Junta de Andalucia, called for increased permanent deployment of officers to the Campo in order to “re-establish authority” and security in the area.
But even as the politicians promised action to tackle the growing impunity of organised criminal gangs, the flow of drugs appeared relentless.
Yesterday, as the Campo took stock of recent events, Spanish police and customs reported seizing 420 kilos of cocaine in Algeciras.
In La Linea meanwhile, Guardia Civil officers conducted a major operation in the Atunara district yesterday morning, the results of which have not yet been made public.
Watching the latest developments from Gibraltar, Mr Picardo said “growing disregard” for the rule of law and “general lawlessness” in the Campo was a source of concern for everyone in this area.
“Beyond our many and deep political differences, at a human level we must never lose our empathy for each other and our concern for the serious social problems affecting our neighbouring cities,” he said.
The Chief Minister said he supported Spain’s more to reinforce law enforcement agencies in the Campo, adding that he also welcomed Spain’s decision to ban high-powered RHIBs just as Gibraltar did 23 years ago.
“I respectfully urge the Government of Spain to implement as soon as possible the decision it has already taken to ban these vessels, in the interest of citizens of the whole region,” Mr Picardo said.
“For the Government of Gibraltar, I firmly reinstate our genuine desire to reach understandings that would enable the law enforcement agencies of Gibraltar and Spain to work even more closely together than they already do today.”
“We owe it to the law-abiding citizens on both sides of the frontier to formalise the already close cooperation which exists in order to make it harder for criminal gangs operating in the Campo to ply their pernicious and illegal trade.”
“We owe it to the men and women of our law enforcement agencies.”
“And, as we prepare to leave the European Union, it would be tragic to see that the established European mechanisms for co-operation between law enforcement agencies might be diluted.”
“We must all work together to avoid that such a political failure today might end up fuelling the criminals’ future successes.”