Spanish state vessels illegally entered the disputed waters around Gibraltar 178 times over the past 12 months, prompting a flurry of formal complaints to the Madrid government – a sign of the increased tensions over the sovereignty of the British overseas territory.
Of the 42 formal written complaints to the Spanish foreign affairs ministry since 2008, half were submitted in the past 12 months. The issue has also been raised directly with Spanish ministers and officials.
Figures released following freedom of information requests show that Royal Navy patrol boats responded to 178 unlawful incursions into British Gibraltar waters between November 2011 and the end of October this year. This was a far higher figure than during previous years and coincided with a dispute over fishing rights in the region.