[ilds] Durrell's British citizenship

Michael Haag michaelhaag at btinternet.com
Fri Jun 1 08:56:58 PDT 2007

Durrell was British and held a British passport; at no point in his 
life was he stateless.

However, in the 1960s the British woke up to the fact that if everyone 
who had been born in the British Empire chose to travel at once, and in 
particular chose to come to Britain, something like a billion people 
could show up on an afternoon.  And so a limitation was placed on 
freedom of entry to Britain based on ancestry (father's birth in 
Britain, I think -- sorry, I do not have the exact details to hand) or 
established residence in Britain.  Durrell's family -- his mother, 
sister and brothers -- were all resident in Britain and were therefore 
British under those previous arrangements and needed to do nothing; in 
fact they were probably entirely unaware of the change in law.  But 
Durrell was living abroad, and he would have needed to register -- 
simply by going to his nearest British consulate.  But he was unaware 
of the new conditions.  He only discovered the situation some years 
later when he went to get his passport renewed at the consulate at Nice 
(I think it was), and they explained that they could not give him a 
British passport with free right of entry to Britain; instead he would 
have to obtain a visa.  His situation was something like that which 
Bruce describes below.

Durrell knew the British ambassador to Paris at the time and raised the 
matter with him, who in turn raised it with the Foreign Office and the 
Home Office.  I have looked at these papers.  Everyone bent over 
backwards to remedy the situation, but the law had been passed, Durrell 
had missed the boat, and it was decided at the highest level that an 
exception could not be made for one man.  What the authorities did do, 
however, was to offer to put Durrell on the British consular payroll 
(again at Nice, I think) -- I am writing this off the top of my head 
without looking at my notes so I am not giving you the precise 
legalities and justifications for all this -- which some how would have 
got round the problem; I think it was because it could then be argued 
that this was an extension of Durrell's foreign service employment 
which would have entitled him to automatic continuation as a British 
citizen with a British passport with full privileges.  All Durrell had 
to do was to show up at the consulate very occasionally, once or twice 
a month or whatever, probably have a drink, and then go home again.  
But he chose not to accept that; quite simply he was too busy.  He was 
content enough to enter Britain as a British citizen with a British 
passport but also with the need to carry a visa.  Durrell was always 
British; at no time was he stateless.

In short, changing times and changing laws.  Until the 1960s Durrell 
was British and enjoyed the full benefits of British citizenship.  
Afterwards Durrell was still British and still a British passport 
holder but with the qualification that he would need a visa to enter 
Britain.  The British government did everything in its reasonable 
powers to make good the situation.  Durrell himself felt unable to 
avail himself of their solution.  There were no bad feelings.

Incidentally, had Durrell been Irish this problem would not have 
arisen.  The definition of Irish nationality is that one parent or 
grandparent was born in Ireland.  Anyone satisfying that condition is 
Irish at birth (whether they know it or not) and is entitled to an 
Irish passport.  Moreover under British law anyone of Irish nationality 
is entitled to live, work and vote in Britain.  No visa is required.  I 
believe that the same applies in reverse.


On Friday, June 1, 2007, at 03:00  pm, <richardpin at eircom.net> wrote:

> I think Michael H can illuminate this - the 'revelation' in 2002 was, 
> I think, in the Guardian newspaper (UK) and explained why LD did not, 
> in fact, hold a full British passport.
> RP
> Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>, ilds at lists.uvic.ca wrote:
> <
> <  Yes, can someone clear up this matter about LD's passport?  I think 
> it's false.  Born of British parents in a British colony and not 
> British?  Sounds absurd.  Moreover, as Lea asks, how could he have 
> worked all those years in the British Foreign Office and not have been 
> a UK citizen?  I know that in Hong Kong, before 1997, people born in 
> the Crown Colony were issued a special British passport, which looked 
> like a regular passport but was actually a "travel document."  It 
> enabled the holder to travel as a UK citizen, but it did not give the 
> bearer all the rights of one.  I.e., the bearer could not claim 
> residence in the UK.  Is something like this the basis of the rumor?
> <
> <  Bruce
> <
> <  -----Original Message-----
> <  >From: Lea Stogdale <leadale at mts.net>
> <  >Sent: May 31, 2007 9:00 PM
> <  >To: "'ilds at lists.uvic.ca'" <ilds at lists.uvic.ca>
> <  >Subject: [ilds] Stateless
> <  >
> <  >Durrell's nationless status was revealed in 2002-born in India yet 
> not
> <  >Indian and never holding British citizenship despite working as a 
> British
> <  >civil servant.
> <  >
> <  >What passport did he hold?
> <  >Lea
> <  >
> <

More information about the ILDS mailing list