Spain Deports 65 Bolivians Who Arrived on MSC Cruise Ship

An MSC cruise ship at Port of Barcelona (Jordi Ferrer / CC BY
An MSC cruise ship at Port of Barcelona (file image courtesy Jordi Ferrer / CC BY SA 3.0)

Published Apr 12, 2024 9:00 PM by The Maritime Executive


Dozens of Bolivian passengers from an MSC cruise ship are being deported back to their home country after officials in Spain detected problems with their paperwork. It is not clear yet whether the people involved were aware of the violation, and investigators are looking into whether they may have been duped in a fake-visa scam. 

On April 2, Spanish immigration authorities detained 69 Bolivian nationals aboard the cruise ship MSC Armonia, including families with children. The ship had arrived in Barcelona on a 16-day "Grand Voyage" itinerary from Brazil, having stopped over previously in Tenerife and Malaga.

On close inspection, Spanish authorities determined that the Bolivians had fake visas for entering Europe's Schengen zone. The cruise ship and all of its 1,500 other passengers were held in Barcelona overnight while officials worked out the problem. Eventually, the ship was allowed to depart, and the Bolivians stayed behind, housed temporarily on another vessel in the harbor. 

Now that proceedings are complete, 65 individuals will be flown back to Bolivia at MSC's expense. Four with family connections in Spain have been allowed to stay in the country. 

MSC Cruises has told media that the Bolivian passengers presented what appeared to be valid visas when they got on board in Brazil. Spain's national police are investigating how they may have obtained fraudulent documents, and whether they were aware that the visas were fake. The passengers did not take the first opportunity to jump ship in the EU when MSC Armonia called in Malaga; they stayed on board until Barcelona, their final destination, where their paperwork irregularities were detected. 

Top image: An MSC cruise ship at Port of Barcelona (file image courtesy Jordi Ferrer / CC BY SA 3.0)