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Cruise carrying 1,500 passengers stuck in Barcelona port over Bolivian visa dispute

A cruise ship carrying hundreds of passengers is stuck in the port of Barcelona after a group of Bolivian passengers were found to have visa issues, according to officials.

Authorities said 69 Bolivians are not being allowed to leave the liner as they do not have valid documents to enter the EU's border-free Schengen area.

There are some 1,500 passengers on board the luxury MSC Armonia, which had set sail from Brazil and was to continue through the Mediterranean Sea to Croatia.

Spanish government officials in Barcelona said they were in contact with Bolivian authorities and MSC Cruises to resolve the situation.

The Bolivians on board included families and children, MSC Cruises said in a statement.

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."

'Treated like a criminal'

The ship remained in port while it works with authorities to rectify the incident, the company said.

A statement from the Bolivian Foreign Ministry said the Bolivian embassy in Spain and the country's consulate general in Barcelona "are carrying out the pertinent steps to address this case".

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Catalan newspaper Ara reported a Bolivian woman felt she was treated like "a criminal [in a] prison" despite claiming she paid for a visa from an agency which told her it was valid.

The newspaper also reported passengers claiming they had been allowed to leave the cruise in Tenerife without impediment, before being blocked in Malaga and eventually stopped in Barcelona.

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