Brexit presents jeopardy for Goans in Britain

End of the road for non-EU migrants to Britain in 2017?

Business & Politics

News - Biz@India

December 21, 2016

/ By / New Delhi



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Goa, in western India, is associated with beaches, fun and revelry round the year. Goan residents of the former Portuguese colony had extended their parties first to Portugal and later the European Union.

After Britain exited the European Union in a referendum in June 2016, the partying has come to an end for the Goans who migrated to Europe.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) of the British Parliament expressed concern over the political uncertainty that envelopes the residential status of both EU citizens in the UK and the 1.2 million Britons believed to be living elsewhere within the European Union.

The warning comes in the wake of a decision expected to be taken by the Theresa May government in early 2017.

Harriet Harman MP, the former deputy Labour leader and chair of JCHR appealed to the UK government, “The government must not use human rights as a bargaining chip.”

He also warned of the impending consequence in case the UK government chooses to deport the large number of EU nationals currently in the UK. “In the unlikely and unwelcome event that the government seeks to deport EU nationals, there could be the potential for significant, expensive and lengthy litigation leading to considerable legal uncertainty for a prolonged period of time. These cases would have the potential to clog up and overwhelm the court system,” he pointed out.

But, how did Goans from India make their way into Portugal and different parts of the European Union, including Britain?

Taking advantage of Portugal’s nationality law, which allows anyone born before December 19, 1961 and their three generations to acquire Portuguese nationality, thousands of Indians from former Portuguese colonies of Goa, Daman and Diu first landed in Portugal. The law also allows a person’s children and grandchildren to acquire Portuguese nationality.

 Glaring legal loophole?

As Portuguese nationals, the erstwhile Goans became EU citizens, which entitles them to live and work in any of the 28 members of the bloc under the ‘freedom of movement’ principle. Moving to Britain, these Portuguese nationals made Swindon and London their final destinations.

The overall number of non-EU migrants making their way to Britain on EU passports has risen sharply in the last three years. As per the UK-based Office of National Statistics, in June 2013, there were 178,000 such instances. Over the next one year, it had risen to 198,000. In June 2015, the total had increased to 228,000 – an increase of 50,000 in two years.

In 2015, Oxford University’s Migration Observatory published a study, which showed how Portugal has become the biggest gateway into Britain for tens of thousands of immigrants born outside the EU. The report showed that 54,000 immigrants born outside the EU were found living in Britain with Portuguese passports in the first quarter of 2015.

Of the 54,000, over 20,000 were of Goan origin, and the rest are believed to be from Portugal’s other former colonies, like Brazil, Angola and Cape Verde.

But, Prime Minister Theresa May, who was known for her tough stand on immigration issues even when she was the Home Secretary, will certainly use the 2.9 million EU citizens residing in Britain as a bargaining chip.

Their future in a post-Brexit Britain is tied to that of the large number of British citizens residing in EU countries. Till now, the May government has not given any guarantees on their continued stay in Britain after Brexit.

Wait and watch what return gift Prime Minister May is likely to present to EU citizens this New Year. Will it not be better than the surprise EU wants to spring during negotiations? Welcome to the deep end of Brexit.

 

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