Authorities Deport 65 Cruise Passengers with Fake Visas

Authorities in Spain have finally begun deporting more than 60 Bolivian nationals caught in a fake visa scam.

Dozens of Bolivians with fraudulent documentation arrived at the port of Barcelona aboard the MSC cruise ship Armonia 10 days ago.

MSC Armonia exterior
MSC Armonia

They were denied entry due to falsified visa documents. Government officials in Barcelona said four of the 69 that had relatives in Spain would be allowed into the country.

The rest are being flown back to Santa Cruz, Bolivia, and the ship’s operator, MSC Cruises, is paying the flight costs. The ship arrived in Barcelona after a transatlantic cruise that originated in Brazil.

Spanish immigration officials denied them entry, saying they had fraudulent Schengen visas. The Schengen visa allows cross-border travel across 29 countries in the EU bloc.

The Ship was Held in Port for Two Days

barcelona spain silversea cruises
The Sagrada Família in Barcelona, Spain (Photo courtesy of Silversea Cruises)

MSC Cruises denied negligence, insisting the visas were checked in Brazil, and all appeared genuine. Due to the issue, the MSC Armonia was detained in the port for more than two days, causing the cancellation of other port calls in the Mediterranean. The following cruise was also canceled.

The MSC Armonia was eventually allowed to depart Barcelona without the Bolivians, who had been taken off the ship and detained on another vessel. They were later taken to the transit area of the port terminal. There have been diplomatic talks between Bolivian embassy officials and the Spanish government to resolve the issue quickly.

Police say Visas were ‘Crude’ Fakes

A balcony overlooking the ocean at dusk in Spain's Drought Emergency.

Some of the Bolivian passengers’ families suggested they were unwitting victims of a fake visa scam, likely perpetrated by their South American travel agency.

However, Spanish police last week said they hadn’t ruled out the passengers were knowingly in possession of fake visa documents and intended to enter Spain illegally.

A police source told the local El Pais news outlet that the documents had been ‘very crudely’ falsified.

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