Three million Indians entitled to Portuguese nationality: Expert

 Miguel Reis At least three million Indians from the former Portuguese colonies of Goa, Daman, Diu and Dadra Nagar Havelli, including their immediate descendents, are entitled to Portuguese citizenship, but only a small minority of them have registered their claim, says Portuguese lawyer Miguel Reis.

An expert in the complexities of Portugal’s nationality laws, specially those that relate to its former dominions in India and Africa, Reis’ legal firm has offices in Lisbon, London, Brazil and more recently in Goa. He says genuine applications from Goa are often stalled for years at the Lisbon end purely because of the suspicion over the authenticity of documents provided to the Portuguese authorities.

The Union Home Ministry and the state government must find a way to certify documents and prevent mafias from taking over the system, says Reis. “Old Goans are losing their identity with whole archives containing birth certificates and other documents being so callously destroyed.”

He could not have stressed this fact more. In a backroom at the Registrar of Births and Deaths in Panaji, this correspondent saw mountains of original Portuguese records containing birth documentation being brazenly handled and torn out of registers by people on the prowl. A single original birth document can provide fake Goan identities for at least seven people, says Reis who has seen duplications that are difficult to tell apart from the original. “Mafias are running factories producing old documents,” he said.

Goans born in Goa before the Liberation of December 19, 1961, and up to two generations of their descendents have a right to Portuguese nationality. They were considered Portuguese citizens by the Lisbon regime which saw Goa’s takeover as an “occupation” rather than liberation.

Though the law is unlikely to change in Lisbon, growing xenophobic sentiment against Indian immigration to the European Union is likely to make the going tougher for those set on migrating from here.

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