British woman detained for 32 hours at Spanish airport after losing passport


A Glasgow-based grandmother was left in a “terrible state” after being held in a “cell-like” detention center at Spain’s Alicante Airport for 32 hours – because she had mislaid her passport mid-flight.

Sharon Dempsey’s daughter says her 66-year-old mother had boarded the Glasgow to Alicante flight on the morning of 7 May with no problems, but somehow lost her passport between then and landing in Spain.

Adele Dempsey says that, despite it being a clear mistake that occurred somewhere during the journey, her mother was ‘treated like a criminal’ for more than 24 hours and provided with only water and bread rolls.

Adele Dempsey told glasgow live: “My mum was kept in a detention center at the airport, similar to a cell, and wasn’t given anything decent to eat or drink. She hd two cold rolls and water and that’s it.

“I know that rules are rules but she was being treated like a criminal – not just someone who had accidentally lost her passport.”

She says the location of the passport was a mystery, since her mother was sure she’d had it in her bag during the flight.

“She knows for certain that she had it when she boarded the plane as she had it open in case it needed to be checked. It wasn’t checked on the plane so she put it back in her bag which was then kept under the seat in front of her.”

Sharon, who was traveling with her brother, first noticed her passport had gone astray when she was on the shuttle bus to the airport terminal.

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“She started to panic and was explaining what had happened to them in Spanish but the passport couldn’t be found,” Adele told reporters.

She says her mother tried to get back on the shuttle bus or return to the aircraft to look, but airport staff were not helpful when she tried to explain.

“My uncle waited on the other side of passport control and we eventually told him just to go to the hotel and wait it out. My mum was kept there overnight.”

Immigration officers told Sharon Dempsey that, following Brexit, a valid passport stamp was needed in order to cross into Spain.

Adele spoke to the British consulate who advised her to book her mother a flight back to Scotland, providing emergency travel documents for the return journey.

However, she says Alicante Airport officials prevented her mother from boarding the flight back, saying she didn’t have the correct documents, and detained her overnight instead.

“There was a chance that she could have to wait there until Wednesday as the emergency travel documents take two days to process and the Embassy in Alicante is closed for the weekend,” says Adele.

“She was obviously really stressed but they didn’t even allow her outside to have a cigarette or give her hot meals.

After more than 30 hours in custody, Adele says, her mother was allowed on to a flight home, albeit to Gatwick – 450 miles away from her departure point. She says Spanish officials insisted on having her mother de ella escorted to the plane by police.

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“She was taken by police escort on the plane arm in arm, and back off the same way.

“She was in a terrible state. She said she hadn’t even washed her face and felt so dirty and was left in tears outside Gatwick with another long wait to get back to Glasgow.”

The Home Office confirmed that they had assisted a British woman in returning to the UK after the loss of a passport.

The Independent has approached Alicante Airport and the Valencia Immigration Office for comment.

In November, the Foreign Office warned British travelers to carefully check their passport on leaving countries within the EU’s Schengen Area to ensure sure they have received an exit stamp.

Since the end of the Brexit transitional period in January 2021, Britons must have their passports stamped on entry and exit when visiting the 26 countries within the European zone, including France, Spain, Italy and Greece.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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