Gibraltar, a refuge

Gibraltar, a refuge
2010. Gibraltar. Antonio Casablanca, from La Línea and a worker in Gibraltar in the 50s and 60s, looks at pictures representing the Civil War 1936-39 and the Second World War in a shop. Photograph: Beatriz Díaz Martínez © Beatriz Díaz Martínez

Gibraltar, a refuge

Ever since the 19th century Gibraltar became a place for transitory refuge for Spanish politicians of many ideologies. They were trying to avoid reprisals, or were using the enclave as bridge to exile across the Mediterranean or Atlantic.

La Línea was occupied by Franco’s troops in July 1936. The British Government, though ambivalent in its involvement in the conflict, offered refuge during the early months of the war to several thousand Spaniards (between 5,000 and 10,000, depending on the sources). Among them were workers in Gibraltar who crossed the border every day and decided not to return to Spain. Gibraltarians who lived in the area and Britons who lived in other provinces also entered the colony. The figures vary between hundreds and two thousand.

The multi-border situation offered several possibilities: some of those who entered Gibraltar left for the front via Tangiers, which was then an International City, while others exiled themselves there.

Between 1940 and 1960 many families from La Línea had at least one member refugee in Gibraltar. They tried to maintain family ties and to survive economically. Some refugees in Gibraltar changed pounds to pesetas on the black market to send on to their families via other workers who lived in.