We are Rebels: Gibraltar

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Gibraltar is the gateway between Europe and Africa, a small and mountainous peninsula which overlooks the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea in southern Spain. For more than three centuries Gibraltar has been a vital United Kingdom strategic outpost. It is a country of 6.5 square kilometers with a population of about 28.000 inhabitants, mainly Spanish, Italian, English, Maltese, and Portuguese. It is well known as “The Rock”. Military control of the Strait of Gibraltar has historically been the most important use of Gibraltar, allowing Britain to defend its trade lanes to the East. The British and Gibraltarian governments assert that Gibraltar has been effectively decolonized. On the other hand, the UN Special Committee on Decolonization maintains Gibraltar on its list of Non-Self-Governing Territories. Spain opposes any attempt to remove it from this list and Spanish commentators still describe Gibraltar as a “colony”. The people living and working in the peninsula are those who really suffer the "cold war" between Spain and England. In the world there isn't another similar situation: grotesque and dramatic at the same time. The local population has been suffering for years because of this Cold War; the European Union has not taken a position and the struggle between Spain and UK weigh against the civil rights of the inhabitants: there are no more secure jobs, there is an unstable economic situation, the Gibraltarian who go to Spain are socially and professionally discriminated by the institutions.


TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Francisco Gomez, Spanish Fisherman:“The sea is not a friend to the fisherman. The sea gets back what you take from it. The sea is not your partner. I think it's your enemy and your friend at the same time. The conflict began on 20th May 2012. Three years have passed and there's no solution. I wonder: if we're in Spain, why do they throw us out? Why does Spain allow them to throw us out, if this is a Spanish area?”

SOUNDBITE [English]Dominique Searle, Editor Gibraltar Chronicle:“We have an history of siege, we have a history of uncertainty. Because we have a common problem, Spain and we had a previous common problem, UK.”

Narration: A strip of sea, a spit of land surrounded by water: the last European frontier separating Spain from the United Kingdom. The border is a few hundred of metres long: it is the shortest border of the world and it separates the Spanish city called La Linea de la Conception from Gibraltar, a British colony. It's the last colony in Europe, as well as the smallest territory among those included in the UN official list of countries to decolonize. Since 1713, Gibraltar has been the centre of a diplomatic war which that doesn't allow its inhabitants to decide their own future.

SOUNDBITE [English]Dominique Searle, Editor Gibraltar Chronicle:“The history of Gibraltar really starts with the war of succession and in fact the British and the Dutch arrive to recover Gibraltar from Spain, they are not technically get in for itself. But typically of the British and the starting of their magic colonial expansion, as soon as they get here and they sow the navy strategic position they basically decide to keep it. And then the history become the colonial history, of course Spain all the time is trying to recover but doesn't have the military strength to do that.”

SOUNDBITE [English]Richard Buttigied, Self-Determination for Gibraltar Group SDGG: “It is always a political-diplomatical dispute, I don't use the word war, it's a dispute that there is between United Kingdom and Spain over a very small place that is Gibraltar.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Juan José Uceda ,Union Organizer: “We talk a lot about a “conflict”, but it's not like war. When there's war, there are continual bombings. Here some Spanish politicians attack Gibraltar and Gibraltar defends itself.”

SOUNDBITE [English]Richard Buttigied, Self-Determination for Gibraltar Group SDGG: “If one goes to New York to the United Nations and looks to the list of colonies Gibraltar is there, Gibraltar is in the agenda ad an issue to be resolved, as a colony to be decolonized. That doesn't mean that we necessarily agree with the UN interpretation of Gibraltar status, the fact that UN consider as to be a colony doesn't necessarily mean that we agree that we are a colony.”

TIME CODE: 05:00_10:00

Narration: Gibraltar is the gateway between Africa and Europe. It is known as “The Rock” and its strategic position is the key issue in the Spanish and British dispute. Provocations and complaints are the ingredients of a political chill that increased during these last years, involving the citizens of both countries. Spain' strategic weapon is the border: a few hundred metres with two different sets of armed forces, two flags, two barriers to get through. Day and night.

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Salvador Molina, President Spanish workers in Gibraltar ASSN: “La Linea de la Concepción was founded 144 years ago. English colonists came to Gibraltar in 1704, many years ago. Before that there was nothing in La Linea de la Concepción. According to history it was a fishing village. It is now a poor city with no industries. The only industry we have is Gibraltar. Here there's a road that separates us from the border and there is a rich population and a poor one.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Juan José Uceda ,Union Organizer: “23.8% of La Linea de la Concepción's GDP comes from Gibraltar. It is one third of our wealth, because La Linea de la Concepción is the poorest city in Spain and Europe. A huge amount of workers come to Gibraltar every day. These are 7,000 Spanish but also 15,000 European workers that are considered as cannon fodder. There's a continual conflict and the frontier is its barometer, with a lot of people queuing for hours. Queues are caused by Spain with an excuse, namely that Gibraltar is a tax haven, that drug trafficking, arms and tobacco smuggling go through Gibraltar. Last year, during ten months, only one million cartons of cigarettes went through Gibraltar and the same amount goes through every Spanish harbour where contraband tobacco comes from Asia. But there's a contradiction: cartons of cigarettes go through the bay 200 metres away from the frontier and the Spanish Civil Guard doesn't forbid it. What is Spain's game? Why do they use the frontier which is crossed by 14 millions of people including Spanish workers? The excuse of frontier checks causes this abuse. There are not always queues, but they're more and more tough because of Spain.

This happens every time the issue of sovereignty is used by a politician to impress the electorate talking about reconquering Gibraltar. Obviously, Gibraltar defends itself against the Spanish attack by getting even with Spanish workers. Spanish people don't receive job offers anymore. And those who are working are under threat of losing their job since Spain creates problems with the queues. And when a job becomes available, it is assigned to a Gibraltarian or to a Portuguese or to anyone else.”

TIME CODE: 10:00_15:00

SOUNDBITE [English]Dominique Searle, Editor Gibraltar Chronicle:There are about 6 thousand of Spanish workers who come in and quite a lot who are not former workers, they are people who do the garden or babysitting. But this is not the phenomenon about I am particularly aware of, what I am aware of is the gaming companies who employs people from all over the world because you have to speak Chinese or Arabic and those things you don't get them easily locally, so that's who comes from others countries. But that's really hit, that's the biggest impact in terms of work. The problem for Spanish worker is the tax, the less job that they have, the fact that the problems Spain introduces has led to some business reducing or closing. Because if tourism is down, shops getting less, the first that they do is reduce the staff.

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Francisco Gomez, Spanish fisherman: “This is a Spanish area. That hill is Spanish. And yet Gibraltar owns 900 metres here and 800 metres down there and Spain is left with only 100 metres. The conflict began one morning, when we went fishing. We met 3 English Police boats, when we arrived in the area where we had always been fishing they told us that we had to go away, that we couldn't fish anymore. I ignored them and continued fishing, but they threatened to arrest me. They rammed my boat. They hit me and I reacted by hitting their engine. I did it because they wanted to push me against the big boat. I didn't realise it until I saw it next to my boat. The Civil Guard approached and there was a clash between them and the Gibraltar Police. There was a moment of tension. I thought that they would go to guns because their boats were hitting each other and because the English Police wanted to approach my boat to arrest me but the Civil Guard wouldn't let them. Since then every time I come fishing here, the Civil Guard has to come with me, because the English Police doesn't want me to fish. These are Spanish waters. Well, I suppose they are. There's a big conflict also on the political level. But I don't meddle in it. My politics is to come home every day and to be able to eat and to pay bills. The life of the fisherman is hard. Who listens to me and knows the sea will understand. If a fisherman earns something today, he will eat. But if he doesn't earn, he doesn't eat. You have to get used to wake up at 3 a.m. every day and to come back home at 3 p.m. 12 hours of work to earn 30 Euros, no one earns so little. That's why we should at least be respected.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Juan José Uzeda, Union Organizer: “Gibraltar's reaction is strong and involves fishermen too, but I think that the issue of fishing has been inflated. They try to blame Gibraltar because of the blocks of concrete in the sea, but those blocks have been put in a water tunnel that probably is the most polluted in the region.”

TIME CODE: 15:00_20:00

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Francisco Gomez, Spanish fisherman: “This area is full of blocks.. We've lost it by now. At least 15 boats used to come fishing here, but now no one does that because we cannot fish anymore. They put those blocks to threaten us, to prevent us from fishing. Because that was the only way to throw us out. I don't know why... One morning, we saw a big tugboat on a platform with a lot of blocks of concrete. And they started throwing them where we were fishing. The blocks are approximately 1m high and 1m wide. Every block weighs about a ton. There are 80 blocks in a small portion of sea. They say that the blocks were put to create sea fauna, but they've been put there with an express intention, because they've got iron spikes where fishermen's nets get stuck and tear. That's why they put them.”

Narration: The dispute between the United Kingdom and Spain is endless. Blocks of concrete in the sea have been the answer to the arbitrary use of border controls. Limitations in the use of Spanish workers have been the answer to the accusation of smuggling. The Spanish Government accuses Gibraltar of being a tax haven, Gibraltar simply points out its British sovereignty, which is unquestionable. This is a daily, continual duel, that seems to be no solution.

SOUNDBITE [English] Richard Buttigied, Self-Determination for Gibraltar Group SDGG:

“Thai say insistently that we are much worst that we are an off-shore paradise, they say that we are a bunch of pirates, and that everything in Gibraltar is about money laundering and other issues. There are others countries out there - small countries, large countries – which have a very different finance system to the one we have, and they are also prospering very well, because they don't have to worry like we do. In spite to be very small, in spite to having unlimited resources we comply with every single European directive. The OECD, the organization that looks into these things gives to Gibraltar an B+ rating which is an high rating, an identical rating to the countries like Germany and England. We are also white-listed by the international monetary fund. I think that these associations will not give us those magnificent ratings if we really were the many things that our Spanish neighbours say we are.”

SOUNDBITE [English] Dominique Searle, Editor Gibraltar Chronicle: “Gibraltar has done well economic in spite UK, because we are small and because we invest in education and because we are in the EU, all the issues that 50 years ago represented those problems – OECD, IMF control, tax regulation – even here was seen as problems when they started actually they have been good for us. It is almost a bit like ''you got this way, you got gonna die'', and when you actually do it, you come on better. Margaret Thatcher closed the military base and said your future is tourism and financial services, and that's what we did. It is not our invention, it is a British invention. Don't forget who invented finance centre? Who invented Gibraltar, the Cayman Islands, all the key places.. Hong Kong? Were the British! London is still one of the biggest finance centre, it's the mother of the finance centres. I think that if people are paying their tax, its proper legitimate business, it properly runs, it respects the international standards...that's what it is.”

TIME CODE: 20:00_25:00

SOUNDBITE [English] Richard Buttigied, Self-Determination for Gibraltar Group SDGG: “The Self-Determination for Gibraltar is a group that started many years ago, and it is a group that came about as a result of local Gibraltarians and persons being worried that the wills of Gibraltarians were perhaps not being respected. The context of the time when this happened was the time when England and Spain were been called by the UN and they had to resolve the issue of Gibraltar by laterally and between themselves. And was there a sentiment among the people of Gibraltar that our wishes, our aspiration, our rights as people were not being taken into consideration. We feel that with the constitution that Gibraltar adopted in 2006, Gibraltar has achieved the level of self-governement as not to be a colony. The UN however has not decolonized us yet. The committee of 24 continues to consider Gibraltar a colony, and they continue to consider our relations twice a year, every year. And we had in fact said to them - are six year now - that if our constitution does not do enough, if they feel that there is something more that we need to do in order to be able to be decolonized, please tell us and we will try to do what you ask.”

SOUNDBITE [English] Dominique Searle, Editor Gibraltar Chronicle: “I feel democracy is the most important fact and the issue of self-determination should be unnecessarily, but in the reality of our life it's not. You shouldn't have to tell the world that you have a basic right, should have it. But if someone is trying to take that from you, then becomes important to assert it. And in that respect I think you can argue that an assertion of self-determination does not have to amount to offering independence, it just needs to be that someone respect what you say.”

SOUNDBITE [English] Richard Buttigied, Self-Determination for Gibraltar Group SDGG: “We have not even been able to explore what the solution for Gibraltar might be, because the Spanish government says that we have not the right to choose, that we are not even a people, and because the UN says that the issue of Gibraltar decolonization has to be bilaterally agreed between the UK and Spain, and because of that the people of Gibraltar never really be given a say over the years. What we have done is carry out several referendum but they have not been on what we wish to be going forward, but simply what we want to retain certain sovereignty links with the UK. And

people of Gibraltar in that two occasions that we had those two referendum have voted overwhelming in favour of remaining British and not having any join sovereignty with Spain.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Juan José Uceda, Union Organizer: “Spain constantly lays claim to Gibraltar. But Gibraltarians want to stay dependent from the UK, their safety raft in the event of a conflict. When the moment of truth will come and they'll have to defend themselves as has happened with Falkland Islands or in the event of an international conflict,

they will want that safety raft. They're really scared of what's happening, the situation they're living in doesn't allow them to say that they don't want anything to do with the UK.”

Narration: Macaques are the actual owners of Gibraltar, those who have held sovereignty since time immemorial. Not even incursions by the Moors, the Spanish or the British – nor their conflicts – have managed to get rid of them. It's been a steady and lasting domination, which observes the political dispute from upon high, inaccessible chasms.

In 1942, Winston Churchill, the British Prime minister, fearing that they would become extinct, asked for more specimens to be brought from Morocco. His decision was influenced by a popular legend that is still quoted everywhere in the Rock: as long as the macaques live there Gibraltar will remain a British colony.

SOUNDBITE [English] Richard Buttigied, Self-Determination for Gibraltar Group SDGG: “We are a colony, that's the problem! What we would like to be is the more pertinent question. We have not been even allowed to conduct referendum or a concentration that would allow the people of Gibraltar to actually say what they want to be. England and Spain continue to have a political dispute vis-a-vis Gibraltar and unfortunately not always have the wishes of the people of Gibraltar been taken into consideration in that dispute.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Juan José Uzeda, Union Organizer: “When Spain goes to such lengths, saying that the frontier will be closed... The consequence of this continual threat of closing the frontier is that the population of La Linea de La Concepción demands to create an area with the same advantages as Gibraltar or to extend the frontier up to here. If you ask people from La Linea where they want the frontier, they would all say that they want it to be extended so that they could all become Gibraltarians.”

SOUNDBITE [English] Dominique Searle, Editor Gibraltar Chronicle: “Britain have one lesson: that we might be very small, but the just the Spain say us are the stones in their shoes, we can be a little rock in the British shoes as well. Best is to leave us alone.”


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