Alternative names: “Llanitos”
Location: Rock of Gibraltar, peninsula at southernmost point of Spain
Population: 20,000 of total population of 29,200
% of population: 68%
Religion: Catholic
Language: English, Spanish, “Llanito” (“Yanito”)

The Gibraltarians are the permanent residents of the Rock of Gibraltar, under UK sovereignty for over two centuries. Its population derives from a mixture of peoples — Catalans, Spaniards, Genoese, Portuguese, Maltese and British. Most Gibraltarians read and speak English and Spanish although a local dialect, Llanito, is also spoken. Their nationality is British although they are not entitled to automatic residence in the UK.

The Rock was seized by the British from the Spanish in 1704 and confirmed as a British possession “. . . for ever . . .”in 1713 by the Treaty of Utrecht. Gibraltar became a crown colony in 1830 and remained an important British naval and military base thereafter. It was granted a greater measure of self-government in 1964 and a new constitution in 1969 giving it a House of Assembly. Spain had brought the Gibraltar question before the UN in 1963 and 1964 and had imposed restrictions on passage between Gibraltar and Spain from 1966. At a referendum held in the colony in September 1967 Gibraltarians voted overwhelmingly (12,762 to 44) to retain association with the UK. Spain closed the frontier with Gibraltar in June 1969; despite improved relations with the UK after the death of Franco it remained closed until February 1985.

Several developments since 1985 have given indications that both Spain and the UK are attempting to find a new status for Gibraltar. The 1981 Immigration Act gave Gibraltarians (along with Hong Kong) British dependent territory status and “British Overseas” passports which in effect deprived them of the automatic right of abode in the UK. Economically the reopening of the border has resulted in increased ties of work, trade and tourism between Gibraltarians and Spaniards. The announcement by the UK in early 1989 that it would withdraw the garrison presently based in Gibraltar would eventually also result in a loss of jobs and greater interdependence with the mainland.

In March 1987, after two decades of Conservative government in Gibraltar, the Socialists gained power under Joe Bossano with eventual independence for Gibraltar as a goal. It was felt that the removal of border controls and further moves towards unity within the European Communities after 1992 might make previous Spanish claims for sovereignty redundant. In February 1989 the Spanish Foreign Minister suggested that Gibraltar might become a European Hong Kong, with Spain gaining control over the territory but with the people retaining their existing rights, laws and customs. However the UK Foreign Secretary assured Gibraltarians that there would be no change in Gibraltar’s status against their wishes.

(See also Ceuta and Melilla)