Gibraltar
 


During Autumn 2004, Gibraltar firms found that the tightness of the labour market was easing. Seemingly footloose Poles and Balts (especially Latvians) were turning up at the scores of construction sites, prepared to work immediately for very reasonable wages. They had no dependents and did not need to return home daily to La Coruna or Algeceiras. Some construction companies began to house these workers in part furnished apartments and gave them extra cash in hand to work late.

Gibraltar had many traditional older buildings in multiple occupation usually let on low rents under social contracts. The "Gibraltar Chronicle" recently reported a case where a landlord was taken to court for not repairing heritage buildings. He stood up for many property owners when he publicized his income from tenants (low) and expected cost of repairs running into hundreds of thousands of pounds. Judgement is still out on this case but the incomers have proved ready takers for such apartments freed up by those lucky enough to get transferred to new "affordable housing". For Slovaks a cold tap basin and toilet on a landing is no different from their communal living in a "town" in Slovakia. Owners of shops that had previously been unlettable found ready takers and Polish salami appeared in windows along with Baltica beer and tins of sprats. A restaurateur who had had a previously messy stock-room found it miraculously tidied after employing a good looking pair of Latvian waitresses. He overlooked the mattresses stacked up against the walls and did a good line in late night celebrations which the girls cleared up in the early hours of the morning.

In 2005 the trickle of migrant workers became a flood as busloads of new EU citizens, indistinguishable from day tourists, were dropped on the Spanish side of the border. Poles, Lithuanians, Slovaks, Czechs and Estonians trekked the few hundred yards past British bobbies into Gibraltar.
A few headed for advice centres but for many their first place to visit was St Bernard's.
For some reason, many of them needed medical attention and they queued in the outpatients' ward of the hospital. Treatments needed included splinting broken fingers, and dressing head laceration wounds.

At the Maternity wing of St Bernard's, the District Nurses reported an increasing number of babies in their care who were born into overcrowded accommodation beyond what they had ever witnessed in the Moroccan quarter. Rooms were clean but 6 persons to a room was common and a number of the mothers were victims of unreported sexual assaults in late 2004 and early 2005.

The construction industry meanwhile was booming and builders were finding that they had the best selection of low priced labour available in decades. Developers' margins improved as British, Danish, German and Belgian investors bought into the new developments and reclaimed land at "Marina Bay". Providing they furnished their 2 room flats they were let immediately.

However, again by spring 2006 some agents were reporting that entire floors of some blocks - say with 10 flats - were being taken over by Poles who were then informally rearranging the accommodation and subletting 10 migrants by removing fittings from rooms to enlarge them and communalising kitchens.

Residents who had purchased flats on other floors were complaining about rowdiness and drunkenness non-stop from Saturday night to the early hours of Monday.

However by early 2005 magistrates saw a rise in Poles remanded in the Moorish Castle jail after Friday or Saturday night drunken brawls. Local girls were also reporting sexual molestation and attempted rape.

Resident Moroccans (some for 40 years) began to protest and form associations to demand fair play. They complained that the new Eastern European immigrants were enjoying property and EU rights ahead of them despite long residency and 20 years of tax paying.
Many were married men who remitted most of their wage back to families in Morocco.
These thousands of "economic migrants", law abiding and honest were witnessing a new fast track transfer of their share of Gibraltar wealth (in particular, located within schools and healthcare) to these EU incomers.
Peter Caruana, Chief Minister admitted the unfairness. Millions of Pounds of our residents' accumulated assets in housing and other infrastructure are up for grabs via EU "rights' packages".
Gibraltar is not a frontier town where all a new settler needs is a few acres, fresh water and no hostile "Redskins". We are always behind in housing provision.

In the Gibraltar Chronicle, June 2006, there was a report that the Minister for Health (Ernest Britto) was outraged - a hole in the heart remedial operation for a Polish girl's baby cost £ 40,000. "We should send the bill to Brussels - before these economic migrants were dumped by our frontier, they did not even know where Gibraltar was".

Yvette Del Agua, Minister for Social and Civic Affairs, backed him up and theorized that the Spanish might like Castro be bussing "new EU undesirables" from their cities.
"Rather than dump them at Santander or Bilbao and give them ferry money to Britain which might be spent in a local bar, they are sending them here to a closer British frontier".

"We have also raided two visiting Estonian fishing vessels which were advertising "massages".
Several crew members have been taken into custody. The girls involved were not from the EU and were offering services more often found in floating brothels.
"Our police received a tip-off from across the border in La Linea where local girls were complaining that regulars from Gibraltar were neglecting them". "Next thing we know", says Yvette Del Agua, "the Poles will divert an old liner into one of our dry docks".