No change in Portuguese nationality laws for Goans: Ambassador Roza de Oliveira
Portugal’s Ambassador to India Jorge Roza de Oliveira has denied that there is a move on the part of his government to change Portuguese nationality laws that apply to Goans and people from Daman and Diu, and said recent media reports suggesting this were incorrect.
The clarification would no doubt come as a huge relief to the thousands of eligible Goans queued up to process their papers for Portuguese nationality.
Reports in the national media had claimed that the Portuguese embassy in New Delhi had recommended that Portugal wind up its policy of granting nationality to people from its former Indian territories, to “improve bilateral relations” between India and Portugal, and to avoid legal disputes over dual citizenship.
But the diplomat said the news that the Portuguese mission had made such a recommendation was “without basis”.
As far as Portuguese nationality laws that apply to Goans and others from the former Portuguese colonies in India are concerned, the Portuguese Ambassador told Herald, “Nothing has changed or is bound to change. Things remain as they are”.
Mr Roza de Oliveira’s statement that “nothing is bound to change” is in keeping with the opinion of legal experts in Portugal who’ve maintained that any attempt to amend the nationality laws to exclude a specific section of people would go against the Portuguese constitution.
Senior Portuguese lawyer Miguel Reis says he doesn’t believe any Portuguese diplomat would recommend that Portugal change its policy, because “If such a measure were to be adopted, it would be a gross violation of article 13, 2 of the Constitution (of Portugal)”.
Reis, whose legal firm Miguel Reis & Associates with offices in Portugal, Brazil and Goa specialises in nationality and immigration laws told Herald: “Citizens of the Portuguese colonies in India never suffered the limitations of citizenship endured by people of other Portuguese colonies. When the colonies ceased in 1975, the law gave the descendants of citizens born in Goa, Daman and Diu the same rights as the descendants of people born in Portugal. This situation is completely stable, and only someone with a racist mentality might want to change these laws 40 years later.”
The Portuguese counsel argues that any changes in the nationality laws to withdraw the privilege only to those born in Goa, Daman and Diu would be entirely discriminatory. “I have never heard of any diplomat to believe that Portuguese descendants born in the United States, United Kingdom, Brazil, France or Germany, just to name a few, should be denied access to Portuguese nationality,” he said. Any such amendments would have “a huge bearing on Portuguese laws”, Reis said.
Portugal, like the UK accepts dual citizenship, but India does not. So the issue has assumed a complex legal and political challenge with cases filed in the courts against two MLAs, Glen Ticlo (of the ruling BJP) and Caitu Silva (of GVP) and several government officials who applied for Portuguese nationality documents.
According to an official at the Regional Passports Office in Panjim, 2,000 Goans a year on an average have been surrendering their Indian passports over the past four years.
“After they collect a surrender certificate from us, they are required to register with the foreigners’ regional registration office (FRRO).” He says he hasn’t come across a single case of anyone wanting to reacquire Indian nationality.
The Indian passport office statistics are no indication though of how many Goans are acquiring the Portuguese nationality each year. A consular official says the Portuguese mission in Panjim handles barely five per cent of applications, with “thousands applying directly to the Conservatoria in Lisbon through agents”. Though 98 per cent of those giving up their Indian passports in Goa are clearly from the Catholic community, a sizeable number of Hindus have also acquired Portuguese nationality documents directly through Lisbon, the official said.
Roza de Oliveira said as far as Portuguese nationality laws that apply to Goans and others from former Portuguese colonies in India are concerned, nothing has changed or is bound to change... things remain as they are [H]