Cross-Border Police Visa Operation – The Bigger Picture: Political and Police Declarations Failed to Protect Gibraltar’s Name!

Leo Olivero

Last week’s police operation involving elements and resources from the Royal Gibraltar Police and the National Police in Spain who arrested 47 people during a Europol-backed operation targeting a people smuggling network or ring who facilitated the trafficking of Moroccan nationals into the EU… was without doubt, an excellent police operation.

However, without repeating much of what already has been said and read in a multitude of media and from official source(s) mostly locally and the media abroad. I want to assess the outcome of this successful police operation from another angle or perspective. One, which has completely been missed or even ignored! This is where it involves ‘Gibraltar the nation’ and not its police service or it’s operational cross-border contacts.

The latter point is hugely important. Because I believe some have lost the real (bigger) picture involved in all this. Especially how Gibraltar, potentially, has been weakened and left open to criticism, blame or negative analyses, which could arguably be used against us by others. I’ll go no further than the Spanish Government and anti-Gibraltar political parties across the border!

I can fully understand the professional euphoria last week by the police, because I would have probably acted the same. Even though I do not agree with the RGP’s senior command and its present one-dimensional approach to local policing and the Commissioner’s primary ‘cross border policing objective’ above everything else it seems. At the detriment of most other concerns from local citizens!

There Was a Bigger Political Message Which Got Lost

From a political perspective, I do not agree, accept and criticise as I see it, how this cross-border enforcement operation was politically hi-jacked, missing the bigger or important picture which could potentially be detrimental to Gibraltar, especially with Brexit talks around the corner. Which may have been the alternate objective I am now criticising! These are opposite points of view of course?

I do not know what kind of message the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo wanted to send out regarding this very important political issue. As I analysed events, it did not appear Gibraltar’s political back was being fully protected by posting one-dimensional tweets on his account. But failing to minimise or putting across or explaining mitigating circumstances, like, ‘Gibraltar’s Visa system had been breached and that our own people had originally detected the crime, but new systems had been devised and were in place to avoid something like this happening again’. There was nothing like

this.Instead, the Chief Minister continued with the RGP line regarding cross border co-operation, as if it had just been invented or was a new cross border operational policing relationship, he tweeted: “I welcome this work, done confidently, efficiently & properly by @RGPolice with the support of other agencies in Gibraltar. We show by our actions that the rhetoric of others is false”.

There was a similar tweet in Spanish by Mr Picardo again about cross-border co-operation, appearing to be a response to Spanish newspaper. Which again I thought was over cooking the issue or point.

Yet, the Chief Minister did not give a measured evaluation in tweet form or subsequently in an official press statement, covering the main bases from a political perspective. Especially those areas that could later be used against Gibraltar at forthcoming Brexit talks. Like allegations, on how lax our immigration policies are, or our border controls and on our security - all were exposed in last week’s successful police visa operation! BUT NO - the focus all along was only on cross border co-operation. - WHEN REALLY THERE WAS A BIGGER POLITICAL PICTURE TO ALL THIS!

I thought the Chief Ministers tweet intervention was unnecessary. Where in my opinion, a private congratulatory message or note to the RGP Commissioner and Spanish agencies concerned, even to Pedro Sanchez if really wanted to, would have sufficed! I say this because of the political timing!

Others locally followed suite. Similarly missing the main point, where in the local press Gibraltar was described as a people-trafficking network and ‘gateway into mainland Europe from Morocco’. Equally, the Rock according to the RGP was now ‘a new illegal immigration route into Europe’ which may or may not be an accurate description based on the operations facts: But if true or not, do we have to ‘sing or say it from the ‘International Rooftops’. Are we unable to exert any measure of self-protection as responsible and intelligent nations do all the time!

Interestingly, no one pointed out or drew contrast, just on how easy it seems, well, from my perspective it does. Exactly, how easy the UK visa application procedure in British Embassy in Rabat appears to be in facilitating British visas to places like Gibraltar. Were any investigations conducted from the embassy unit in Rabat to verify that visa application and issuing protocols had not been breached, enabling from that end, a less effortless visa granting approval system???

For readers who followed this news story in the Spanish media, the official Spanish agencies over there who took part in the joint operation you would have noticed, did not make a high profile public hullabaloo about it, neither was the ‘cross-border co-operation point highlighted’, it was hardly mentioned by the Spanish agencies concerned. Certainly not by the Spanish Government or politicians… all that was happening on this side of the

border.The whole public communication strategy adopted, regarding this cross-border police operation was in my opinion, badly thought out and handled. It actually came across as Gibraltar the small nation that got all over excited, appearing to want to prove a point ‘by continuously patting itself on the back’ with continuous long public statements on the matter and playing one note ‘cross border co-operation’.

However, I have to say, it was totally ironic to hear the Commissioner of Police response in a TV interview, when asked ‘what lessons had been learnt’, he replied, ‘there were many, including border controls, need tightening up and also how criminals can exploit all entry points into Gibraltar”.

The latter remark by the RGP Commissioner, pathetically exposed the local ‘know it all attitude and arrogance’ common to others not only in the police service. These People in authority who never listen or take note, even dispelled as exaggeration many related reports in Panorama!

I want to highlight and remind readers the numerous comprehensive reports by Panorama directly focusing on the lack and dangerous weak security around Gibraltar, in most areas. But mainly, on the Eastern sea area side of the Rock and far end of Eastern beach, the Port area, the Western Part of the Runway area, the Upper Rock and the Frontier Fence. I have even described on more than one occasion how the Rock was ‘Security Sieve’ Did Anyone Take Note? - Now the World Knows Thanks to Our So-Called Security Experts!

20-01-2020 PANORAMAdailyGIBRALTAR.