LOST IN TRANSIT

How did two Vietnamese teens go unnoticed in Barcelona airport for four days?

The minors wandered around international transit area with no ID or travel documents

Two teenage girls from Vietnam spent four days at Barcelona’s El Prat airport last December unnoticed by authorities. The pair wandered about the terminal’s international transit area with no ID or travel documents, according to police sources consulted by EL PAÍS, and were able to get by because they had money on them.

The boarding area at Barcelona airport’s Terminal 1.
The boarding area at Barcelona airport’s Terminal 1.Gianluca Battista

An officer discovered them on December 27 at 8pm as the pair were attempting to cross into the Schengen flight departure area in Terminal 1, where there are no border controls.

The girls told the officer they were aged 13. A medical examiner has confirmed that they are indeed minors.

The girls refused to say how they got to Spain or whether they were left behind by someone

Both were reportedly disoriented and crying, yet offered no information about how they got there, said a police spokesman. Investigators suspect the two landed in Barcelona on an international flight and were in transit to a third, non-European country.

The teens, who also had four cellphones between them, only gave their names and country of origin. They spoke no English, which delayed communication until a Vietnamese translator was found. Even then, the girls refused to say how they got to Spain or whether they came with someone else who left them behind.

AENA, Spain’s airport operator, has offered no explanation as to how two minors were able to spend four days within the airport. “Border control is up to the police,” said an airport spokesman.

Police sources said it is an “exceptional” occurrence and that they have not launched an investigation into the case.

They were discovered after attempting to cross into the Schengen flight departure area

The Catalan regional government is now their legal guardian and has sent them to a center for minors until their case is resolved. The regional police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, has opened an investigation of its own into the incident, and is trying to determine whether it is a case of illegal immigration or human trafficking, said a spokeswoman.

Every expert consulted by this newspaper said it is highly unusual that two minors were able to wander around the airport’s transit area without anybody noticing, especially when security controls are supposed to be tight due to the fact that Spain is on a level 4 alert (out of 5) for terrorism threats.

According to records, in 2015 a total of 414 unaccompanied underage foreigners were located on the Spanish coast, most of them from Algeria and Morocco. Authorities admit there are no hard figures on the real number of minors who may have entered Spain by land, concealed inside vehicles or “through other means.”

English version by Susana Urra.

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