Friday, February 20, 2009

The Portuguese passport for Goans

It is familiar news in the corridors of Goan society for a long time. Goans are making their way to Europe in search for greener pastures. And the help is coming from a distant quarter in Europe. A country which most Goans fought against for independence. And got it, thanks to the might of India which liberated Goa from Portuguese rule on 19th December 1961.

But now in modern Goa, Portugal seems to be holding a special place in the hearts and minds of Goans. While the older generation has a mixed feeling towards the Portuguese, the younger generation is finding it difficult to hold any resentment against the Portuguese.

The special place accorded to Portugal by many Goans has a lot to do with the Portuguese passport which Portugal has extended to the original residents of Goa and is still in force thanks to the largesse of the Portugal nation.

So under the current Portuguese Nationality law, all Goans living in Goa before 19th December 1961 are deemed to be Portuguese nationals. The only hassle( and the major one) is to prove and claim that Nationality. It is believed that the Portuguese dictator Salazar, provided laws to keep Portuguese Indians as Portuguese nationals after the Indian army liberated Goa.

However in Goa, many were overwhelmed by the passion of liberation from the Portuguese and in their excitement are known to have destroyed all their Portuguese documents including the Passports, Bilhetes and many other original papers during their celebrations just after the liberation of Goa. However the Portuguese law granting nationality to goans continued to remain in force.

While other ex-Portuguese colonies were given time to decide between their new independent country( Mocambique, Angola etc) and Portugal, the citizens from the Estado da India were not given a period of time to make up their mind which still entitles us to continue being Portuguese citizens today.

So the law made under Prime Minister Marques De Pombal in the year 1757 by a Royal Decree which was duly signed by King D.Jose I, granting all Portuguese Indians ( Goa, Damao and Diu) the citizenship of Portugal and equal status with the Metropolitan Portuguese, still remains in force.

So while Portuguese Indians rejoiced in the liberation of their territories form Portugal, and had no wish to claim Portuguese Nationality owing to Portugal being a poor economy, the whole scenario changed when the dynamics of Europe were transformed with the formation of the European union which made Portugal a mouth watering proposition.

In 1986, The European community was formed of which Portugal was a part. This opened windows for Portuguese Nationals to travel and work or reside in any part of the European Union thus raising the level of interest in Portugal by many Goans. The European union consists of countries such as England and France which became the hot pursuit for job seeking Goans. In fact it is well said in the gossip streets of Goa that half of the population of the picturesque coastal village of Siridao, in Goa, is residing in either France or Swindon in England.

The applications for claiming the Portuguese Naitonality therefore increased after the year 1986 and even if one had been born even today, in the twenty first century, but had his parents or grandparents born before December 19th 1961, one could claim for the Portuguese nationality through their benevolence.

The only exercise however is to claim for this Portuguese nationality from Portugal. To do this it takes many excruciating years of searching documents, notarising them, attesting them with government bureaucrats in India and finally presenting them with the Portuguese consulate. This exercise is repeated atleast six or seven times in the whole procedure to get yourself the Portuguese nationality.

However the delay is caused by the Portuguese nationality process which can take anywhere between a lucky 3 years or a ridiculous decade or even more. Many Goans have spent decades in pursuit of this nationality and some have dropped out due to frustration of not seeing their process go any further despite furnishing the requisite documents.

Nevertheless many Goans and Indians from Daman and Diu who are eligible for this privilege have been diligently trying their level best to secure the passport, consuming years with patience for the seemingly green card for Europe.

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