In 2016 I was robbed of my EU citizenship. As a holder of a British passport I had been free to circulate around the European Union freely, offering my services without hinderance. I was also able to benefit from free hospital care when I fell ill on holiday in Venice in 2012. As soon as the hospital established that I was a bonafide EU citizen, I received all sorts of care and tests. When Brexit came into effect on 1st January 2020, all of that ended.
This year on recent business trips to Helsinki I was asked at least six questions at Helsinki Airport’s Passport Control about the nature of my visit, where I was staying, how long my trip was for, the name of my hotel, etc. I found it all rather intrusive. Was this my lot as a British citizen? Did I have to put up with it? No.
I found out about La Ley de Memoria Democratica de 2022 (The Democractic Memory Act 2022). To cut a very long story short, it enables Spaniards who were in exile after the Spanish Civil War to recover their Spanish citizenship, as well as their children’s and grandchildren’s citizenship. It also provides for Spanish ladies who married foreign nationals to have their children and grandchildren recognised as Spanish citizens too. Therefore, I visited the website of the Spanish Consulate in London and read the numerous pages to double-check that everything that I had heard about the LMD really, truly applied to me. It did, so I began the application process.
First, I had to obtain birth and marriage certificates from the General Register Office. Three weeks went by. Then, they had to be legalised by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. Three weeks went by. These certifcates needed to be translated. Fortunately, that was done in a jiffy. So far, so good for the British documents. However, the Spanish certificates that I needed to present had to have been issued recently so that they were valid for six months. The most important certificate was my mother’s birth certificate. The Civil Registry in Ejea de los Caballeros, Zaragoza, Spain had a skeleton staff during July and August, so it took three months to obtain the certificate. However, when it arrived there was no date stamp on it showing that it had recently been issued. Many telephone calls and a huge phone bill later, I finally received the dated certificate in September.
I put all the certificates and translations into a lovely folder. It looked like a work of art to me. On 4th October I had my appointment with the Spanish Consulate. There was an office set aside for LMD applications. The door sign said ‘LMD’. This looked very organised. Everything seemed to be going very smoothly until the civil servant saw that my father had been born in Tangier, even though he was a British citizen and had had his birth registered at the British Consulate in Tangier the day after he was born. The civil servant asked me to find a birth certificate for my father from a Moroccan civil registry office. I explained that back in the 1930s Tangier was an international zone governed by numerous countries. Foreign nationals in Tangier always registered the birth of their children at their countries’ consulate. While the civil servant agreed with me, she said that I needed to provide written evidence to that effect. It was so disheartening. However, I was not going to be defeated. Within a week I sent her evidence from the Moroccan and French Consulates confirming that no such person as my father existed in their respective archives. Moreover, a Spanish historian specialising in nineteenth century architecture in Tangier confirmed that there was never a Moroccan civil registry office in Tangier in the 1930s. This proved to be sufficient to advance my application. The civil servant telephoned me personally and gave me the good news.
Initially, I became excited all over again. I have always felt that dual nationality is a fair reflection of my background and life. I felt like I was within touching distance of fulfilling this long sought-after aspiration. Three or four weeks later, I received a Spanish birth certificate and a consular registration number. The latter enabled me to obtain an appointment with the Nationals Department of the Spanish Consulate and make my passport application. The appointment was on 10th November and my passport arrived today! I’m so looking forward to travelling freely around Europe again.