Saturday, Sep 24, 2022

Explained: A Passage to Portugal

For several years, Goans have been queueing up at the Consulate General of Portugal’s office in Altino, Panjim — not far from the Chief Minister’s official residence — seeking Portuguese citizenship.


How many have gone?

No government agency, NRI Commission of Goa, the Regional Passport Office or the Foreigner Regional Registration Office (FRRO) seems to have the exact number of Goans who have acquired a Portuguese passport — apparently because their Indian passports can be surrendered at many places, including at Indian missions abroad, and no total figures are available. The Goa Migration Survey, 2008, found that 12% of households had an emigrant abroad, and the total annual remittances in the state were Rs 600 crore. However, the report pointed out that Europe is home to only 13% of the Goan diaspora; the largest numbers (50%) are settled in the Gulf, where Goans started to move from the time of the oil boom of the early 1960s.

It is estimated that broadly, over a lakh of Goans have relinquished their Indian citizenship to move to Portugal and subsequently, to other EU countries.

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The population of Goa was 14.5 lakh in the Census of 2011.


Why do they want to go?

The first noticeable Goan migration was seen after Portugal became a member of the European Union on January 1, 1986. EU membership gives a Portuguese passport-holder access to 28 countries across Europe, including major economies such as Germany, the UK and France, with equal benefits in terms of employment, concessions and rights. Limited opportunities for employment in Goa amplified the attraction of Europe, and as the migration progressed, tales of migrants making fortunes fuelled the exodus further.

Under Portuguese law, a Goan citizen aspirant must possess a birth certificate or marriage certificate issued by the Conservatória do Registo Civil de Goa, Daman, Diu, Dadra Nagar Haveli prior to December 18, 1961. Those born after this date must have record of at least one parent having been a resident of Estado da India, including a death certificate. All such Goans are eligible to register at the Central Registry of Births at Lisbon, and may be granted the Cartão de Cidadão, the Portuguese national identity card, which puts them on the road to obtaining a Portuguese passport.

How are Goans eligible?

Goa, along with Daman and Diu, became part of India in December 1961, but Portugal, the erstwhile colonial ruler, accepted India’s sovereignty over the territories only after the two countries signed a treaty on December 31, 1974. The treaty, while dealing with property, assets or claims of citizens, and the return of records, had nothing on the citizenship of the residents of the erstwhile Antigo Estado da India, or Portuguese India. It was assumed then, according to an Indian official familiar with the circumstances of the signing of the treaty, that its very title — ‘Treaty between the Government of India and the Government of the Republic of Portugal on recognition of India’s sovereignty over Goa, Daman, Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Related Matters’ — implied that residents would assume Indian citizenship.


However, on June 24, 1975, the Portuguese government issued a portaria (decree), under which it allowed the residents of its former territories to claim Portugese citizenship if they registered their births in Lisbon. The same decree allowed the next two generations (sons, daughters, grandchildren) of such citizens to inherit the citizenship of Portugal.

The Indian government did not contest these provisions — apparently because it wanted to avoid prolonged and expensive litigation at the International Court of Justice, and probably also because leaders at the helm of affairs then did not anticipate people might want to migrate to a country that was at the time poor by European standards.

The Case Of Remo

The issue of Goans leaving for Portugal was re-reported nationally last month after the legendary rocker Remo Fernandes was booked by the Goa Police for allegedly verbally abusing and threatening a 17-year-old girl who was injured in an accident involving a car being driven allegedly by his son Jonah. On December 22, during the course of the investigation, police announced that Remo is now a foreign national, having obtained a Portuguese passport. Remo has since appeared before a judge and has been given bail.

First published on: 20-01-2016 at 02:08:15 am
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