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Cruise ship stranded in Spanish port resumes sailing after removal of passengers with visa problems

A cruise ship stuck in Barcelona due to visa issues with Bolivian passengers has reached an agreement with Spanish authorities and the MSC Cruises Company.

A cruise ship stuck in the northeastern Spanish port of Barcelona will be able to resume its route after a group of Bolivian passengers with visa problems were taken off the vessel on Thursday, authorities said.

The Spanish government said in a statement it had reached an agreement with MSC Cruises Company in which 69 Bolivian passengers were removed from the boat and taken to a transit zone in the port, but were not granted permission to enter Spanish territory.

The ship got stranded in Barcelona this week after the Bolivian passengers were not allowed to disembark because they lacked valid documents to enter the European border-free Schengen area, an ID-check-free travel zone comprising 29 European countries that Spain is part of.


Barcelona was meant to be the final destination for the Bolivian passengers, but the boat was scheduled to travel onward to other countries.

The cruise company agreed to provide another boat from Livorno, Italy, for the Bolivian passengers later Thursday, the government statement said. It was not clear if that boat would remain in Barcelona until the situation is resolved or take the Bolivian passengers elsewhere.

Under the agreement, MSC Cruises will also provide food and health care for the impacted Bolivians and immigration officials will work to resolve the passengers' visa problems as quickly as possible, it added.

The MSC Armonia, with more than 1,000 passengers reportedly on board, plans to sail to Italy on Thursday, the cruise company said.

Solange Duarte, a Bolivian diplomat in Barcelona, told The Associated Press on Wednesday she had received reports that some of the stranded Bolivians had been duped into obtaining fake visas but had no further information.

"We have asked the families to indicate who has processed this visa and we have not gotten answers," she said.

Spain’s national police were looking into the possibility of a fake visa scam, Duarte said.

MSC Cruises said in a statement Wednesday the Bolivian "passengers appeared to have proper documentation upon boarding in Brazil" but Spanish authorities later said the visas were not valid for entry into the Schengen area.

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