Portugal holds out hope for Indians
Portugal holds out hope for Indians
By Armstrong Vaz
Panaji: Portugal may be one of the poorest in the 17-nation in eurozone, but that has not deterred many an Indian to opt for citizenship of that country. With a financial bailout for the debt-ridden country more likely the Portuguese are apprehensive of what holds in store for them in coming days and months.
54-year-old Portugal citizen Antonio Pereira hailing from Borim village in Goa, a former Portuguese colony, has not concerned of what will happen in the event of a financial bailout for the debt-ridden country and the austerity measures that lay in store for him and his family.
He is one of the hundreds of Indians from the Estado de India who have opted for Portuguese citizenship after renouncing his Indian citizenship and now works in UK.
Prime Minister Jose Socrates' resigned on Wednesday after parliament rejected the government's latest austerity plan. The austerity plan - the government's fourth in a year - was aimed at avoiding the need for a bailout for Portugal to help it meet debt repayment obligations, a package similar to those granted by the International Monetary Fund and the European Union to Greece and Ireland last year. Analysts have estimated that an international financial rescue for Portugal would cost between 50 and 100 billion euros, according to an AFP agency report.
Portugal’s green and red coloured flag is at the centre stage in India. The bandeira de Portugal is the focal point on a giant billboard in Goa, in western India, for all to see. Agents specializing in Portuguese Nationality and Passport consultancy services have emblazoned the flag to attract people in the western state of India, eager to migrate to Europe.
The advert, says “Portuguese Nationality (for Indians), Attestation and Submission of documents.”
The striking advert is one of the many that have popped up in the state and which have proved so popular with hordes of people eager to give Goa a miss and take a flight to Europe.
The green in the flag represent hope. Likewise, hundreds of Indians from the Estado da India are holding hope and making a bee line to get the Portuguese citizenship. For many, the Portugal window is a perfect opportunity to migrate to Europe as Portugal is part of the European Union (EU).
Residents from the Union territories of Daman and Diu, Nagar and Haveli besides Goa which were Portuguese colonies till 1961 have accorded the special option to become Portuguese citizens by virtue of jus solis, ie, because they or their ancestors were born in Portuguese colonies (Antigo Estado da India Portuguesa). Goa was a Portuguese territory for more than 451 years, up to 1961.
“Portugal is not granting Goans Portuguese citizenship. They are already Portuguese citizens by virtue of having been born in Estado da India Portuguesa or by virtue of being descendents of those born there. Goans born before 1961 do not become naturalised citizens of Portugal because they always were Portuguese citizens and retained their Portuguese citizenship after 1961, according to Portuguese law. To avail of Portuguese/European citizenship rights, you need to register your birth in Portugal,” said Lisbon based Attorney Pedro Rodrigues, a Goan-origin advocate, who traces his roots to Moira village in North Goa and who specializes in the Portuguese Citizenship.
For Indians like Antonio and many of his fellow unemployed Indians the Portuguese citizenship is a ticket to an improved lifestyle. But, for most of them Portugal is not there final destination, where they will seek a job.
With a crippled economy and not many jobs for the locals in Portugal, the Indians prefer to play their trade elsewhere in Europe. Their favourite country is UK and then comes France.
Selma Carvalho, http://selmacarvalho.squarespace.com/author/ author of the book Into The Diaspora Wilderness says : “The Goan who has made his way to the UK through the Portuguese passport-holding route, is predominantly settled in Swindon, Reading and other areas conducive to first-generation immigrant settlement. They come from the lower socio-economic groups of Goa, with minimal education and inadequate proficiency in English. Once here, they take up janitorial and factory jobs. But given their resilience and propensity for hard work, they do remarkably well in the UK, within a span of five to ten years.”
Then language is another barrier. A minuscule population of Goa is familiar with spoken Portuguese and those opting for Portuguese citizenship find themselves lost for words and lose their face in front of passport officials in Portugal.
But that is changing in Goa, thanks to Instituto Camões, a public institution, part of the indirect Government administration, endowed with administrative and financial autonomy and its own assets, pursuing the aims of the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the areas of culture and education with a network of Leitorados, Centros de Língua and Centros Culturais established abroad under a Cultural Exchange Programme with third countries.
“Centro de Língua Portuguesa/Instituto Camões in Goa conducts language courses, Levels A1, A2 and B1 following the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: learning, teaching, assessment, which corresponds to basic, elementary and intermediate courses respectively. Every year we have around 80 and 100 students learning Portuguese language and culture at our premises. Institute Camões is in Goa since 2001 and has signed in January 2007 a M.O.U. with the Goa University. The Department of Portuguese at the university offers a post graduate course (M.A.) in Portuguese Literature and Culture. In 2009-2010 we had 16 enrolled in M.A. in Portuguese Literature and Culture and this year 12 students. Some of our students come from New Delhi and other parts of India,” says Delfim Correia da Silva, Director, CLP/ Instituto Camões –Goa.
“The Dept. also offers language courses, Basic, Intermediate and Proficiency. In 2009-2010, 48 students have concluded their four months intensive course. In 2010-2011 the Department of Portuguese also offers Portuguese Language as optional and credit courses. There are also several local institutions conducting classes in Portuguese language, namely the Indo-Portuguese Friendship Society/Fundação Cidade de Lisboa and the Centro Cultural Communicare. Centro de Língua e Cultura Portuguesa (CLCP) at the Smt.Parvatibai Chowgule College of Arts and Sciences in Margão with whom Instituto Camões has established a M.O.U in July 2008 is also offering Portuguese intensive language courses to the their Higher Secondary and B.A. students and to students from outside as well. Portuguese language is part of the curriculum of the High and the Higher Secondary Schools in Goa. It is an optional language from stds.VIII to XII for more than 700 hundred students,” she adds.
Those migrating are not just uneducated youths but educated youth who don’t find jobs of their choice in India. Many Goans who have opted to get migrate to Europe via the Portugal route were former footballers ploayign for different clubs in India. The players had no productive employment after their football careers came to an end and opting for Portuguese citizenship was the quickest thing that came to their mind.
“Migration of Goans will continue in the near future given that the opportunities available for their children (Goans) in the Developed World are simply not there in Goa. UK is a welfare-state. Their health requirements are taken off by the NHS, their children's education is free of cost and there is a reliable safety-net in terms of unemployment and disability benefits, which quite a few of them claim,” says Carvalho
But, the process of Portuguese citizenship is not a long drawn process involving a lot of paper work and endless trips to various government offices in search of the documents.
The Portuguese authorities tighten the noose after notorious gangster Abu Salem broke through the loose ends of the system to get Portuguese citizenship.
Since then the Portuguese authorities have been insisting on the Police Clearance certificate.
According to information available, nearly 1,200 Goans have acquired Portuguese passports in the last three years.
The chances are by and large that at some point of time, the Portuguese government may crack the whip and say enough is enough vis a vis - Portuguese citizenship for former colonies. Till now, Portugal have been resisting pressures from UK and other European countries in closing the doors of citizenship for residents of former colonies.
In recent times with Bulgaria and Romania joining the European Union, the migrant workers from India are facing competition in the cheap unskilled labour market.
Even as UK deliberates to keep a check on illegal migration to the country more and more people are registering online to get an appointment to submit their documents to the Portuguese Consul-General in Goa. The process of securing appointment itself takes close to one to two years. http://www.consuladoportugalgoa.com
“The chances are they (Portugal) may close it down (granting of citizenship). So it is better to complete the formalities. Never be late and regret at a later date,” says Rodrigues .
So, there is mad rush to cross the finish line and it is not restricted to residents of Goa but for residents of Daman and Diu, Nagar and Haveli who burn the midnight lamp in Panaji, the capital of Goa, to submit their documents to the Consul-General in Goa.
Indians based in different parts of the world who trace their roots to the former colonies have been pushing the panic buttons to get Portuguese citizenship.
“The craze to acquire a Portuguese passport is not restricted to Goans based in Goa. Goans based in Australia, Persian Gulf and Kenya are inquiring about the process and the documents required to acquire a passport. I get calls and emails from different parts of the world. The task is not simple as done. But, certainly more hassle free and little paper work compared to getting a citizenship of other European countries,” says Rodrigues.
According to Portuguese lawyer Miguel Reis three million Indians from the former Portuguese colonies are entitled to Portuguese citizenship, but only a small minority of them has registered their claim.
The 50th anniversary of Goa’s decolonisation coincides ironically with 500 years of the Portuguese arrival here in 1910. Several Portuguese institutions will be joining hands to commemorate the 500 years with a major international academic symposium on contemporary Goa and its history to be held at Lisbon’s Catholic University. In November last year, the Portuguese training vessel Sagres on a voyage to commemorate 500 years of the Portuguese arrival at the Orient and the Far East, drew strong protests from freedom fighters and saffron groups after it berthed at Mormugao harbou, says a Decan herald report. http://www.deccanherald.com/content/149095/portugal-still-denial-over-goa.html
Portugal’s ties with former colonies like Goa also extend on the sporting field with Goa Football Association availing of the services of a Portuguese coach for its football youth development programmes.
As India does not support dual citizenship, the moment you become a Portuguese citizen you have to surrender your Indian passport. One becomes an alien in his own land. But that’s a price worth paying feel hundreds of Indians.
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