High price of housing driving Gibraltar's young people "into the arms of Spain"

Gibraltar fears property price boom is driving its young people into the arms of Spain, says a report in the Sunday Telegraph. "And if that goes on and the young cannot afford to live here eventually that will threaten our identity," said estate agent and current Mayor Momy Levy.

Says the paper: From an upper window of his new home in a Spanish suburb, Tom Smith can stare wistfully out at the distinctive shape of The Rock, rearing above Gibraltar 10 miles away. Mr Smith's new home is a neat Spanish street - full of cars with Gibraltar number plates.

A native of the proudly British territory, known affectionately as Gib, he can no longer afford to live there. Like hundreds of others from the tiny community which has stayed defiantly British for centuries, he has been forced by soaring property prices to move down the coast to a cheaper place to live.

An economic boom fuelled by the success of online gaming and financial services based here has lured hundreds of foreigners, including many Britons, to settle, work or just buy property on The Rock.

The report in the Telepgraph adds: So Mr Smith's new home is a neat Spanish street - full of cars with Gibraltar number plates. Every morning he and his neighbours must drive to their jobs on Gibraltar, sometimes queuing for two hours at passport control to get through the notoriously slow Spanish customs post.

The Gibraltarians have flown the Union flag for centuries in defiance of geography, dictators and, they say wryly, the Foreign Office.

Spain has long dreamt of taking it back but neither threat nor blandishment has ever won over the 22,000 stubborn Gibraltarians, who are still proud to call themselves British - in heavily-accented English.

The housing problem is becoming a political issue. Stephen Linares, opposition education spokesman for the Liberal Party, said: "The Gibraltarians are being pushed out of Gibraltar"

In response to Gibraltarians' anxieties, the government - led by Chief Minister Peter Caruana - says it has a number of social housing projects in the pipeline, aimed at providing more affordable accommodation.

But Derek Villalta, 34, said: "Some people want to dilute our identity. In the future perhaps new people won't care which flag flies over The Rock. Some politicians would like us to be closer to Spain, and this may be how they are doing it."