PICTURES

Britain to protest as Gibraltar border queues return

Britain's HMS Westminster leaves for Gibraltar from Portsmouth navy base in southern England, on Aug 13, 2013. The row between Britain and Spain over Gibraltar went up a notch Monday as London mulled legal action over "totally disproportionate" borde
Britain's HMS Westminster leaves for Gibraltar from Portsmouth navy base in southern England, on Aug 13, 2013. The row between Britain and Spain over Gibraltar went up a notch Monday as London mulled legal action over "totally disproportionate" border checks and Madrid threatened to turn to the UN. As the threats were made over the British-held territory, British warships began setting sail for the Mediterranean for a naval exercise that will see the frigate HMS Westminster dock in Gibraltar. -- PHOTO: AFP
The British Royal Navy frigate HMS Westminster sets sail from Portsmouth Harbour in southern England on Aug 13, 2013. Westminster will join other British naval warships in the Mediterranean Sea for a scheduled exercise, and will stop off at Gibraltar
The British Royal Navy frigate HMS Westminster sets sail from Portsmouth Harbour in southern England on Aug 13, 2013. Westminster will join other British naval warships in the Mediterranean Sea for a scheduled exercise, and will stop off at Gibraltar. Britain warned Spain it might take legal action to try to force Madrid to abandon tighter controls at the border with the contested British overseas territory of Gibraltar in what it called an "unprecedented" step against a European ally. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Motorists queue on Aug 13, 2013 at the border crossing between Spain and Gibraltar in La Linea de la Concepcion. -- PHOTO: AFP
Motorists queue on Aug 13, 2013 at the border crossing between Spain and Gibraltar in La Linea de la Concepcion. -- PHOTO: AFP
Motorists queue on Aug 13, 2013 at the border crossing between Spain and Gibraltar in La Linea de la Concepcion. -- PHOTO: AFP
Motorists queue on Aug 13, 2013 at the border crossing between Spain and Gibraltar in La Linea de la Concepcion. -- PHOTO: AFP
Motorists queue on Aug 13, 2013 at the border crossing between Spain and Gibraltar in La Linea de la Concepcion. -- PHOTO: AFP
Motorists queue on Aug 13, 2013 at the border crossing between Spain and Gibraltar in La Linea de la Concepcion. -- PHOTO: AFP
Motorists queue on Aug 13, 2013 at the border crossing between Spain and Gibraltar in La Linea de la Concepcion. -- PHOTO: AFP
Motorists queue on Aug 13, 2013 at the border crossing between Spain and Gibraltar in La Linea de la Concepcion. -- PHOTO: AFP
Motorists queue on Aug 13, 2013 at the border crossing between Spain and Gibraltar in La Linea de la Concepcion. -- PHOTO: AFP
Motorists queue on Aug 13, 2013 at the border crossing between Spain and Gibraltar in La Linea de la Concepcion. -- PHOTO: AFP
Motorists queue on Aug 13, 2013 at the border crossing between Spain and Gibraltar in La Linea de la Concepcion. -- PHOTO: AFP
Motorists queue on Aug 13, 2013 at the border crossing between Spain and Gibraltar in La Linea de la Concepcion. -- PHOTO: AFP
Motorists queue on Aug 13, 2013 at the border crossing between Spain and Gibraltar in La Linea de la Concepcion. -- PHOTO: AFP
Motorists queue on Aug 13, 2013 at the border crossing between Spain and Gibraltar in La Linea de la Concepcion. -- PHOTO: AFP
Motorists queue on Aug 13, 2013 at the border crossing between Spain and Gibraltar in La Linea de la Concepcion. -- PHOTO: AFP
Motorists queue on Aug 13, 2013 at the border crossing between Spain and Gibraltar in La Linea de la Concepcion. -- PHOTO: AFP
Motorists queue on Aug 13, 2013 at the border crossing between Spain and Gibraltar in La Linea de la Concepcion. -- PHOTO: AFP
Motorists queue on Aug 13, 2013 at the border crossing between Spain and Gibraltar in La Linea de la Concepcion. -- PHOTO: AFP
Two women replace plastic bocks as they queue on Aug 13, 2013 at the border crossing between Spain and Gibraltar in La Linea de la Concepcion. -- PHOTO: AFP
Two women replace plastic bocks as they queue on Aug 13, 2013 at the border crossing between Spain and Gibraltar in La Linea de la Concepcion. -- PHOTO: AFP
Motorists queue as pedestrians walk on Aug 13, 2013 at the border crossing between Spain and Gibraltar in La Linea de la Concepcion. Irate drivers waited up to five hours to enter Gibraltar today, some even pushing their cars to save fuel, as Spain e
Motorists queue as pedestrians walk on Aug 13, 2013 at the border crossing between Spain and Gibraltar in La Linea de la Concepcion. Irate drivers waited up to five hours to enter Gibraltar today, some even pushing their cars to save fuel, as Spain enforced tight border checks in a growing row with Britain over the tiny territory and its surrounding waters. The latest flare-up was sparked when Gibraltar sank concrete blocks in disputed waters to create an artificial reef, making it impossible for Spanish fishing fleets to operate in the area. -- PHOTO: AFP
Passengers smoke and use their mobile phones as they queue on Aug 13, 2013 at the border crossing between Spain and Gibraltar in La Linea de la Concepcion. -- PHOTO: AFP
Passengers smoke and use their mobile phones as they queue on Aug 13, 2013 at the border crossing between Spain and Gibraltar in La Linea de la Concepcion. -- PHOTO: AFP
People cross the Gibraltar airport tarmac after the border crossing between Spain and Gibraltar on Aug 13, 2013. Irate drivers waited up to five hours to enter Gibraltar today, some even pushing their cars to save fuel, as Spain enforced tight border
People cross the Gibraltar airport tarmac after the border crossing between Spain and Gibraltar on Aug 13, 2013. Irate drivers waited up to five hours to enter Gibraltar today, some even pushing their cars to save fuel, as Spain enforced tight border checks in a growing row with Britain over the tiny territory and its surrounding waters. The latest flare-up was sparked when Gibraltar sank concrete blocks in disputed waters to create an artificial reef, making it impossible for Spanish fishing fleets to operate in the area. -- PHOTO: AFP
Spanish workers cross the Gibraltar airport tarmac before the border crossing between Spain and Gibraltar on Aug 13, 2013. Irate drivers waited up to five hours to enter Gibraltar today, some even pushing their cars to save fuel, as Spain enforced ti
Spanish workers cross the Gibraltar airport tarmac before the border crossing between Spain and Gibraltar on Aug 13, 2013. Irate drivers waited up to five hours to enter Gibraltar today, some even pushing their cars to save fuel, as Spain enforced tight border checks in a growing row with Britain over the tiny territory and its surrounding waters. The latest flare-up was sparked when Gibraltar sank concrete blocks in disputed waters to create an artificial reef, making it impossible for Spanish fishing fleets to operate in the area. -- PHOTO: AFP
A man crosses the Gibraltar airport tarmac before the border crossing between Spain and Gibraltar on Aug 13, 2013. Irate drivers waited up to five hours to enter Gibraltar today, some even pushing their cars to save fuel, as Spain enforced tight bord
A man crosses the Gibraltar airport tarmac before the border crossing between Spain and Gibraltar on Aug 13, 2013. Irate drivers waited up to five hours to enter Gibraltar today, some even pushing their cars to save fuel, as Spain enforced tight border checks in a growing row with Britain over the tiny territory and its surrounding waters. The latest flare-up was sparked when Gibraltar sank concrete blocks in disputed waters to create an artificial reef, making it impossible for Spanish fishing fleets to operate in the area. -- PHOTO: AFP
Tourists wait for taxis near a phone booth in Gibraltar on Aug 13, 2013. This rock of seven square kilometers enclosed in the coast of Andalusia, off the tip of southern Spain, is reminiscent of England: the red phone booths, mailboxes Royal Mail, th
Tourists wait for taxis near a phone booth in Gibraltar on Aug 13, 2013. This rock of seven square kilometers enclosed in the coast of Andalusia, off the tip of southern Spain, is reminiscent of England: the red phone booths, mailboxes Royal Mail, the lampposts decorated with flowers, and double decker buses. -- PHOTO: AFP
People mill around Casemates square in Gibraltar on Aug 13, 2013 as Spain today enforced tight border checks in a growing row with Britain over the tiny territory and its surrounding waters. On the "Rock" itself, defiant residents declared themselves
People mill around Casemates square in Gibraltar on Aug 13, 2013 as Spain today enforced tight border checks in a growing row with Britain over the tiny territory and its surrounding waters. On the "Rock" itself, defiant residents declared themselves thoroughly British, surrounded by English pubs serving fish and chips, Royal Mail letter boxes, bright red telephone cabins and the occasional monkey. -- PHOTO: AFP
Motorists queue on Aug 13, 2013 at the border crossing between Spain and Gibraltar in La Linea de la Concepcion. Britain on Tuesday said it would lodge a formal complaint with Spain after drivers were subjected to five-hour-long queues to cross into
Motorists queue on Aug 13, 2013 at the border crossing between Spain and Gibraltar in La Linea de la Concepcion. Britain on Tuesday said it would lodge a formal complaint with Spain after drivers were subjected to five-hour-long queues to cross into the tiny British outpost of Gibraltar, in a growing diplomatic row. -- PHOTO: AFP

GIBRALTAR (AFP) - Britain on Tuesday said it would lodge a formal complaint with Spain after drivers were subjected to five-hour-long queues to cross into the tiny British outpost of Gibraltar, in a growing diplomatic row.

"The Foreign and Commonwealth Office will be protesting to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the unacceptable delays seen this morning at the Spanish border with Gibraltar," a Foreign Office spokesman said.

Gibraltar has accused Madrid of imposing the checks in retaliation for its decision to drop concrete blocks into the sea to create a reef for fish at the mouth of the Mediterranean.

Madrid claims the border checks are necessary to combat smuggling and that the reef is a deliberate impediment to Spanish fishing vessels in a dispute over territorial waters.

Waiting times peaked at five hours in the early afternoon, according to the Royal Gibraltar Police.

Many people parked their cars on the Spanish side of the border and decided to walk across the border, carrying their luggage or briefcases in their hands to escape the tailback of cars waiting to pass the exhaustive checks imposed by Spanish authorities.

"This has happened to me several times, at least six or seven times" in recent days, said Francis Perez, a 30-year-old unemployed construction worker who waited for an hour and a half to cross the border into Gibraltar with his family.

Perez is from Madina Cidonia, a Spanish city located about 50km from Gibraltar, and like many area residents he heads to the British outpost to buy fuel for his car and tobacco because taxes there are lower.

"It's horrible to have to spend hours to get in and out of Gibraltar. Today it's not too hot but there are other days when it was unbearable. It's all just politics," he said, as his car crept ahead.

Britain and Spain are embroiled in an escalating diplomatic row over stringent car searches imposed since the end of July by Spanish guards at the Gibraltar border, which have regularly caused delays of several hours.

Britain on Monday threatened to take legal action over the checks on the border of the rocky outpost on Spain's south coast while Spain said it was considering taking the dispute to global bodies such as the United Nations and the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Gibraltarians are firmly on London's side in the latest of a long string of spats.

"We don't want to belong to Spain, we are happy being British," said 42-year-old Gilbratarian Kim Bickerstaff, complaining that the Spanish border checks hurt both residents and visiting workers.

About 6,000 Gibraltarians live on the Spanish side where housing in cheaper, according to Madrid.

"Those of us who have family or work here have a different viewpoint from the rest of the Spanish, we are not anti-Gibraltarian," said Rafael Marquina, a 46-year-old government worker from the Spanish border town of La Linea who was visiting his aunt in Gibraltar.

"All the problems come from an incorrect starting point: that Gibraltar is Spanish. But Gibraltar is British and its people feel British," he said.

The British warship HMS Westminster set sail on Tuesday on a training exercise that will include a stop at Gibraltar.

The type 23 frigate left Portsmouth naval base on England's south coast to join nine other Royal Navy vessels heading for the Mediterranean and the Gulf.

Defence officials said the training exercise has long been planned and follows similar deployments in 2011 and 2012.

About 10,000 Spaniards cross the frontier each day to work in the self-governing British overseas territory which measures just 6.8 sq km and is home to about 30,000 people.