Sonia Steptoe regularly travels to Spain on vacation because she has a house there. Her mother-in-law who lives in Spain is ill and Sonia often travels to take care of her.
Sonia said her passport was stamped at border control when she entered Spain and stamped when she left in November.
She said: “When I left in November, no one gave me to understand that I had exceeded the length of stay despite having to stamp my passport.”
Sonia said she decided to return to Spain for Christmas. As her mother-in-law is ill, Sonia intended to take care of her and recover a bit from her own struggle with long symptoms of Covid.
She said: “I had booked my return flight for January 20 and filled out all the different forms you needed to do to travel now.”
DO NOT MISS
As soon as she reached border control at Madrid airport, Sonia said border guards told her to wait.
She told Express.co.uk: “They said there was a problem and I should go back to England.
“They said I was there for more than 90 days. It was the first time I had heard of this rule. I told them that I would not have traveled if it had been pointed out to me.
“I told them I had Covid and was too sick to travel and didn’t know I had to do anything.
“I was questioned by the border police on several occasions and then I was taken to an interview situation where I was given a lawyer and an interpreter.
“And the lawyer told me I had to appeal. He said the situation was really ridiculous and that I would find out about the call in the morning.
Sonia said she was then told she should be taken to a Spanish detention center overnight.
She said, “It was absolutely horrible, horrible. I am a professional person, I have never been in such a situation. I was just treated like a criminal.
“Everyone just thought it was really hysterical that someone from the UK was being detained.”
In the center, Sonia said: “They take everything away from you and electronic devices are not allowed, even a cell phone. Perfume, everything has been taken. You sleep in bunk beds.
Sonia said most of those held at the center were South American. She said: “They were very pleasant but obviously, since none of them spoke English, we couldn’t really communicate.
“I think the guards said I was the first person they had who was English.
Sonia said she takes medication daily due to health issues which she packed in her suitcase.
She told Express.co.uk that she was told she would have to do without her pills for the day.
She alleged, “I told them I couldn’t do this because it wasn’t safe for me. They said I couldn’t have my suitcase, but would get medical attention.
After arriving at the center, Sonia said she asked to see a doctor several times, but no one could give her a firm answer.
She said, “By that time it was around noon, so I went to bed because I was so tired.
“Then, around two in the morning, I was driven halfway to the airport to speak to an emergency doctor.
“He could only prescribe emergency medication and I wasn’t sure whether it would be safe for me or not due to possible allergies.
“I speak Spanish but it was all so confusing and since having Covid my cognitive abilities have been a bit slower than normal.”
Sonia said she questioned staff about her call and asked to have something in writing.
She said: “In the morning, no one said anything about my call, even though I asked.”
Sonia was escorted to the plane and had to wait for everyone to board until she was cleared to board. She said the experience was “a total humiliation, really embarrassing.”
She said, “I was treated like some sort of criminal, it was absolutely disgusting the way I was treated.
“If I had known I was doing something wrong, I would never have gone back to Spain at all.
“I haven’t written anything from them. I don’t even have the lawyer number they gave me.
“I can travel 90 days after my departure date, but it’s a bit scary to fly back to Spain.
“I’m sure I won’t be the first or the last person because I expect the others won’t know the rule either. It was absolutely horrible.
Express.co.uk had contacted Spain’s Home Office to comment on Sonia’s case.