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Unfazed by Brexit vote, Goans revel in London festival

world Updated: Aug 02, 2016 01:21 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times

A Brazilian group performing at the UK Goan Festival London on Sunday.(HT Photo)

There is anxiety among European Union citizens about their future in Britain after the June 23 Brexit vote, but not much of it was evident as more than 12,000 Portuguese citizens of Goan-origin revelled at a festival here on Sunday.

The “UK Goan Festival London” was celebrated in characteristic “susegad” (contented) style with a colourful carnival parade, music, alcohol and traditional cuisine, with Britain’s exit from the EU rarely in the air. The day at Cranford Community College ground in west London began with mass by Bishop Gracias of Mumbai and hymns in Konkani.

Savio Menezes, a young Wembley-based worker who arrived from Goa last year, said as he jived to live music by a Brazilian group: “Polou-ya kide zata (Let’s see what happens), nothing will happen for two to three years. If I have to leave, I can always go to France or Germany.”

The British government has so far refused to confirm that nearly 3 million EU citizens in Britain will be allowed to stay after Brexit, a process that is yet to commence. Prime Minister Theresa May wants to link their future to that of 1.5 million Britons living in EU countries.

The festival saw senior Labour MP Keith Vaz, who is of Goa origin, promoting his diabetes charity Silver Star, which is supported by Indian actors Amitabh Bachchan and Shilpa Shetty. Prominent individuals at the festival included Valerie Vaz, Labour MP, and noted writer Selma Carvalho.

Panaji-based Armando Gonsalves and Shaeen Gomes at their ‘Goa ForGiving’ charity stall at the festival. (HT Photo)

Organised by the Goan Association UK (which was set up in 1966), the festival saw one of the largest gatherings in recent years, with people arriving from London and Leicester. There was a large contingent from Swindon, where many Goans have settled in the past 15 years.

Ravi Vaz, president of the Goan Association, told HT: “They seem to be relaxed about the Brexit vote but there is some worry. It will be a mistake if new migrants from Goa go to France, since race relations there are nowhere as good as they are in Britain.

“Nobody knows what will happen after Brexit but I think those already here will be fine. My advice to Goans thinking of taking Portuguese citizenship is to think twice. Job prospects are not exactly bright here, and Portugal itself has tightened rules for acquiring citizenship,” he added.

Panaji-based Armando Gonsalves, chairman of the prominent NGO Goa ForGiving, said: “Brexit is a sizzling topic back home but I got the feeling that most Goans here are not too upset about Brexit even though things may turn out for the worse.

“Unifying the Goans is of utmost importance now, it can actually be the turning point for Goans across the world, a time when we can show we are more than just fun-loving and honest people, that we have it in us to create employment opportunities as well as brands across the world, especially in the tourism and restaurant industries.”

Britain currently has three MPs of Goa origin - Keith Vaz, Valerie Vaz and Suella Fernandes - and several councillors. The government has been under pressure to stop what is called the “backdoor entry” into the country of Goans with Portuguese passports.