From Argentina to London

Richard Bennett – Immigration Advisor

Working as the immigration advisor at Cardinal Hume Centre in the heart of one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities brings you into contact with some very interesting characters from all corners of the globe.

Take for example Roberto, an elderly Argentinean gentleman, who has led a colourful and peripatetic life. He lived in the UK for 10 years in the early 1970s until the early 1980s- working as a manager at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London and at another hotel in Bedford.

After the outbreak of the Falkland’s War in 1982, the atmosphere changed and he no longer felt welcome here. He moved to the US where he lived for around 30 years before the draw of London brought him back here in 2008.

Since returning he has earned his living as a street entertainer working on the South Bank dressed as a Welsh Grenadier Guard chatting to and having his photo taken with the tourists! An Argentinean dressed as a Welshman, surely some mistake? Well actually, Welsh settlers established a colony in Chubut, Patagonia, Argentina in 1865 which still exists and where Welsh is still spoken to this day- so not such an outlandish connection after all.


Anyway back to Roberto; in 2010, he became ill and started attending Dr. Hickey’s surgery at the centre. He was diagnosed with chronic kidney failure and soon after had to start regular dialysis. The issue of his immigration status, his eligibility for treatment and whether he could legally remain here came to the fore- even though he had lived here previously, worked and paid taxes.

Roberto contacted me and I assisted him in preparing an application to regularise his status on the basis of his poor health. It was refused by the Home Office and he was told to return to Argentina, a country he barely knows having left there in the early 1970s. Roberto said that if he were to return to Argentina he would probably die on the streets, a fate he felt he didn’t deserve.

His case came before the tribunal and the judge, feeling sympathy for his plight, adjourned it so that we could investigate further his entitlement to Spanish nationality. Both Roberto’s parents were Spanish nationals- from rural Navarra- who had emigrated to Argentina in search of a better life in the mid 1920s.

The Spanish consulate in London said that if Roberto could get their birth certificates, he would be entitled to Spanish nationality. After calling around what seemed like every civil registry office in every hamlet in rural Navarra, we located the birth certificates of his parents- one born in 1893 and the other in 1891. They have recently arrived and we are now in the process of finalising his application for Spanish citizenship.

Almost a hundred years after his parents left the old world for the new, their son’s journey has brought him back, full circle, to el viejo continente- albeit to Europe’s largest city rather than rural Spain. Roberto says he is “very happy” to have his parents’ birth certificates and to have had the help of the centre in a variety of ways- immigration advice, Dr. Hickey’s surgery and support from Lucy, a member of our coaching team.