PRESS RELEASE 028
Minister González Laya reiterates call to avoid non-essential travel and for Spanish tourists to return
18/03/2020
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, Arancha González Laya, reiterated on Wednesday to Spanish tourists abroad who wish to return to Spain to get in touch with their travel agencies, airlines and transport providers to speed up their flight home as soon as possible. She also urged them to notify the details of their situation to the nearest Spanish embassy or consular office, which will keep phone lines open 24 hours a day.

Aware of the difficulties they may encounter due to the increase in cancelled flights and border closures, the minister called for “patience, collaboration and responsibility” from tourists and reiterated that “no Spaniard will be left behind”. As the minister pointed out, “the Government of Spain will accompany each and every Spanish citizen abroad​. I would call for calm and responsibility. Thousands of people are getting in contact with us at this time. We will provide you all with a response.

These messages all point in the same direction as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation sent almost 2 million messages to the mobile phones of Spaniards on 12 March who are outside Spain, requesting them to reschedule their trip and return following the international restrictions imposed due to Covid-19. Making use of the notification capacity of the popular system "España contigo" [Spain with you], whereby citizens who have a mobile phone with a Spanish number receive an SMS text message with the contact details of the embassy and/or consulate in the country in which they arrive, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent a total of 1.8 million messages to these mobile numbers asking people to reschedule their trip and, as far as possible, return to Spain.

The minister also reported at today’s press briefing at Moncloa Palace that the Spanish external service network is fully engaged in supporting all those citizens that need help in ensuring they find the best way to return to Spain, providing special attention for the most vulnerable. To do that, the more than 200 Spanish embassies and consulates around the world are in close contact with the Spanish community, informing them of all the possibilities available to return to Spain whilst working with local authorities in each country to make sure they facilitate the departure of Spanish citizens. As regards Spanish residents overseas, the minister sent them a message of calm, recommending them to avoid travel, to follow the instructions of the local health authorities, and obviously to contact their local embassy or consulate should this be necessary.

At present, more than 4,500 staff, between public servants and local workers, are employed at Spain’s representations abroad. Their aims include consular assistance for Spaniards abroad through the 192 consulates that Spain has around the world. Spain is also trying to activate the Civil Protection Mechanism of the European Union to improve coordination with the rest of the EU Member States and thus facilitate organised assistance for all EU citizens.

In order to strengthen and support the work of personnel overseas, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation has added a further 40 public servants to the consular attention shifts at the Consular Emergency Division in Madrid, which raises those who temporarily form part of this key ministerial department at this time to nearly 50 people (with a dedicated 24/7 phone number +34 91 394 89 00). They are supported, in turn, by nearly 100 voluntary workers who have offered their support to provide manpower at these critical times.

In terms of foreign tourists in Spain, the head of Spanish diplomacy asked for their cooperation in respecting the restrictions on the movement of people in the decree on the state of emergency whilst managing the formalities to guarantee their orderly return to their own country.

Spain has 2.7 million nationals resident in countries overseas, according to the National Statistics Institute, in addition to another 65,340 non-residents plus all those thousands of unregistered tourists who are on holiday abroad.



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