Goans go British, thanks to Portugal citizenship law

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, Swindon
  • Updated: Jul 12, 2015 01:11 IST
Family of Lington Monteiro (extreme left) with Goan friends Armando Gonsalves (in dark glasses), Jaime Barreto (extreme right) and others in Monteiro’s house garden in Swindon. (HT Photo)

It is one of the many paradoxes of a post-colonial world: Portugal was the first western country to colonise parts of India — Goa from 1510 — and the last to leave in 1961. But now, thousands of Goans are opting for Portuguese passports and ending up in Britain.

Under Portuguese nationality law, those born in Goa before its liberation from the European nation’s rule on December 19, 1961 can claim Portuguese citizenship after registering their births in Lisbon and their next three generations can also claim citizenship.

In recent years, there has been something of a rush to give up Indian passports in Goa, register births in Portugal, acquire citizenship and passports in that country, and move to Britain.

In Swindon , an unassuming manufacturing town in the ceremonial county of Wiltshire, it doesn’t take long to come across areas inhabited predominantly by Goans.

“They hold Portuguese passports but have very little to do with that country. Many have never been to Portugal, but use its citizenship to migrate to Britain and end up in places like Swindon, Hayes, Cranford,” Jaime Barreto, a Goa-origin civil servant, said.

Nearly 12,000 such working-class Goans have moved to Swindon in the last decade, changing its demography and leading to some tension. A Portuguese passport makes them EU citizens, with the right to live, work anywhere in the union, and access thousands of pounds in state benefits from the local taxpayer.

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