Goans set aside Brexit worries to revel in London

Updated on Aug 07, 2017 09:59 PM IST

Thousands of people of Goan-origin revelled at an annual festival held in London, with a discernible relaxed atmosphere following recent about the future of EU citizens after Brexit.

A food stall at the UK Goan Festival held in London.(HT Photo)
A food stall at the UK Goan Festival held in London.(HT Photo)
Hindustan Times, London | By, London

Goan music mixed with dance, food and spirits as nearly 10,000 people with Portuguese citizenship revelled at the annual festival here on Sunday, reflecting characteristic nonchalance and some relief over recent announcements about the future of EU citizens after Brexit.

Goan families converged in large numbers from Swindon, Leicester and elsewhere at Cranford Community College in west London, as the day began with mass by bishop Patrick Lynch and unfolded in the many hues of Goan culture, including Konkani songs.

Compared to last year’s event, when some uncertainty over their future after Brexit was in the air, there was a discernible relaxed atmosphere. The rules for the future of Goan-Portuguese and other EU citizens are yet to be finalised in talks with Brussels. 

“Brexit is no longer in the forefront of Goans’ minds. In fact, the concern is more about the overall economy and how the pound’s fluctuations will affect decisions such as buying houses. After all, Goans are survivors, we have seen the worst in Africa too,” remarked Rabi Martins, councillor in Watford and a senior local leader of the Liberal Democrats.

However, civil servant Jaime Barreto added a note of caution as people jived to numbers by Goan singers DnT (Denzil and Trisca) and the Bad Blood band (the songs included the iconic Lorna Cordeiro’s song Yo bailey yo, soro maka zhai poelo).

Panaji-origin civil servant Jaime Barreto (left) with the Gonsalves family. (HT Photo)
Panaji-origin civil servant Jaime Barreto (left) with the Gonsalves family. (HT Photo)

Panaji-origin Barreto said: “We are still not aware of the rules that will apply post-Brexit. Many Goans with Poruguese citizenship, who have been here for some years, have started applying for British passports just to be on the safe side.”

Some campaign groups have called for closing what they call the “backdoor entry” into Britain of thousands of Goans, who surrender Indian passports, adopt Portuguese citizenship and move to Britain, accessing all benefits of EU citizens. Many have found employment, but others have struggled to adjust and pine for life back home.

Panaji-based Armando Gonsalves, whose Goenkarponn music video was played at the festival, said: “Many young Goans are contemplating returning to start businesses. They won’t go back to jobs but opportunities beckon back home.

“The drop in pound value has made it difficult for people to send money home. The Goa government will do well to encourage Goan expats with entrepreneurial possibilities, which be the real trigger to get our brethren back home.”

The banner for theUK Goan Festival in London. (HT Photo)
The banner for theUK Goan Festival in London. (HT Photo)

Organised by the Goan Association UK (established 1966), the event saw one of the largest gatherings in recent years. Many who were neighbours in Goan villages met, while new migrants exchanged notes about employment prospects.

There are three Goa-origin MPs in the House of Commons: Keith Vaz, Valerie Vaz (both Labour) and Suella Fernandes (Conservative). 

Watford councillor Rabi Martins, who is also a local leader of the Liberal Democrats. (HT Photo)
Watford councillor Rabi Martins, who is also a local leader of the Liberal Democrats. (HT Photo)

Under Portuguese nationality law, Goans born before the liberation day of December 19, 1961, and two subsequent generations, can acquire Portuguese citizenship, which entitles them to benefits and freedom of movement across Europe.  Portugal was the first Western country to colonise parts of India (Goa, from 1510) and the last to leave (in 1961).


    Prasun Sonwalkar was Editor (UK & Europe), Hindustan Times. During more than three decades, he held senior positions on the Desk, besides reporting from India’s north-east and other states, including a decade covering politics from New Delhi. He has been reporting from UK and Europe since 1999.

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