Saturday, 3 March 2012

Tension grows as frontier checks multiply - unemployment blamed

Inside Spanish Aduana precinct
(Photo: GibChrinicle)
GIBRALTAR (GibChronicle)  The ongoing Guardia Civil crackdown on smuggling is clear to see: dozens of motorbikes and vehicles, seized in recent days after Spanish officers found them stuffed full of contraband cigarettes. There were tense scenes on the Spanish side of the border yesterday as dozens of angry people arguing with border guards that the checks were excessive.In Gibraltar there were tailbacks and delays of over an hour to cross into Spain. The focus for much of the week has been on motorbikes, but yesterday it was cars that were being targeted.>>>

Spanish officers manning the green channel stopped every sixth car during the evening rush hour. They were mostly cursory check but sufficient to cause the heavy volume of traffic to quickly pile up, forcing authorities here to implement contingency arrangements to ease the flow of cars.

Officials in Spain believe smuggling is increasing in tandem with rising unemployment in the Campo de Gibraltar and beyond. Likewise the fact that tobacco here costs nearly half of the price in Spain means the clandestine trade is also attracting attention from organised gangs.

But for people who supplement meagre unemployment benefits with petty contraband, closer scrutiny from the Guardia Civil has dealt yet another unwelcome blow.

The number of people registered as unemployed in La Linea increased last month and currently stands at 10,640, an increase of 177 over January, according to data released yesterday. In the Campo de Gibraltar, the overall number of people unemployed rose 1.4% to 40,641 during February.

The figures reflect the national trend, with the number of people claiming unemployment benefit in Spain rising by 112,269 in February, taking the overall figure to 4.7 million. Spain’s unemployment rate stands at 22.9%, the highest in the 17-nation EuroZone.

The Spanish economy posted negative growth in the fourth quarter of last year and is expected to enter recession this quarter.

The new right-leaning Popular Party government has introduced a series of reforms in a desperate attempt to shake up the economy but it acknowledges that unemployment is likely to continue rising throughout this year.

The employment ministry said yesterday that the total number of people claiming benefits was up by more than 400,000 from February last year.

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