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Cruise ship carrying 1,500 passengers stuck in Spain port due to Bolivian passengers’ visa problems

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — A cruise ship reportedly carrying 1,500 passengers was stuck Wednesday in the Spanish northeastern port of Barcelona due to the visa problems of a group of Bolivian passengers who were due to disembark there, officials said.

Authorities say 69 Bolivians were not being allowed to leave the ship because they lacked valid documents to enter the European border-free Schengen area. Solange Duarte, a Bolivian diplomat in Barcelona, told The Associated Press she received reports 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, adding she heard it was possible the Bolivians would be transferred to a different ship.

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

Spanish state news agency Efe and other media said some 1,500 passengers were on board the MSC Armony hoping to continue the cruise to Croatia.

Bolivia’s deputy foreign affairs minister, Fernando Pérez, said the country was waiting “to see what the Spanish authorities decide what to do.”

A statement from the Bolivian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said the Bolivian Embassy in Spain and the country’s Consulate General in Barcelona “are carrying out the pertinent steps to address this case,” coordinating with Spanish authorities, as well as with the MSC Cruises Company.

MSC Cruises said in a statement the Bolivians included families and children.

It said the “passengers appeared to have proper documentation upon boarding in Brazil. We have been informed by the authorities that the visas are not valid for entry into the Schengen area. As a result, passengers have not been able to disembark in Barcelona, which was their final destination.”

The company said the ship remained in port while it works with authorities to facilitate the process.

The Schengen area is an ID-check-free travel zone comprising 29 European countries, most from the European Union.

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This story was corrected to show that the Schengen zone is a European rather than European Union creation and comprises 29 countries.

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