The Portuguese nationality or dual citizenship are the two sides of a coin. Goans holding the Portuguese passports are considered to be the dual nationals as they also hold an Indian passport. This privilege has been granted by the system to the Goans who were born in the state prior to 1961. The privilege was further extended to their children and grandchildren. How Goans get this privilege is not an issue anymore, but how long this privilege going to remain with Goans is the matter of concern at the moment.
According to the prevailing law in Goa, anyone who is born in Goa on or before 18th December 1961 is automatically becoming eligible for the Portuguese the Portuguese citizenship. This is also applicable to their children and grandchildren.
In some cases, the children born in Portugal to non-citizens may also be eligible for Portuguese citizenship. However, this does not apply to the children born to the tourists or short-term visitors to Goa. Portuguese citizenship law is complicated by the existence of numerous former colonies and in some cases, it is possible to claim Portuguese citizenship by connection with one of these jurisdictions.
The most notable of these are Goa, Daman & Diu. Portugal allows dual citizenship. Hence, Portuguese citizens holding or acquiring a foreign citizenship does not lose their Portuguese nationality. Similarly, those becoming Portuguese citizens do not have to renounce their foreign nationality and the same is applicable to all the Goans holding the Portuguese passport or a dual citizenship.
Then dual citizenship issue came into the light in Goa when BJP took over the command of Goa. It was Mr. Parrikar, the Chief Minister of BJP government in Goa who brought this issue of Portuguese nationality in the Goa’s Assembly.
According to him, he was at pains to see the long queue of Goan people standing outside the Portuguese consulate seeking Portuguese passport. The Centre set up the panel following the letter from the former Governor of Goa, B V Wanchoo, and Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar (currently Defence Minister) informing that around four lakh Goans have registered their names in Portugal’s Central Registry of Births, Marriages, and Death.
Based on the above, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and Union Ministry of Law and Justice have been working together on this issue for quite some time and finally, they managed to come up with an opinion that, alone registration of birth in Lisbon will not entitle the Goans to acquire the Portuguese citizenship.
The process will have to be followed, to complete the formalities, to obtain the Portuguese citizenship and according to the guideline set by the MHA the Goans, who have registered their birth in Portugal should submit an affidavit to MHA mentioning that they wish to continue to retain their Indian Citizenship and do not wish to relinquish the same.
According to the clear guidelines set by the Law Ministry of India, those Goans who possess the Portuguese Passport will not be able to continue their citizenship in India.
To resolve the Portuguese citizenship issue in Goa, the central government with the panel of three-member high-level committee headed by Mr. B K Prasad, additional secretary, Union home ministry, said that,“The Union government is serious about resolving the issue of those Goans who have registered their births in Portugal and they will submit a report to the Union home minister on these issues.”
Addressing to the media Mr. Prasad said, “We have to resolve the issue and we have to clear the confusion in the minds of Goans.” The three-member committee, which arrived in Goa, held a series of meetings with lawyers who are well-versed with Portuguese law, defense minister Manohar Parrikar, NRI commissioner Wilfred Mesquita and south Goa MP Narendra Savoikar.
The Sources, who were present at the meeting said that it was suggested that, the Union government should amend the Indian citizenship act so that those who have registered their births in Lisbon, Portugal, should not lose their Indian citizenship.
The suggestions have been made that, Goans who have registered their births in Portugal should be allowed to give a declaration stating that they have registered their births in Portugal for the better future of their children and they are Indian citizens.
Many Goans, born in Goa, prior to the December 19, 1961, have automatically got registered their births in Portugal and become the Portuguese citizens. This is also applicable to their children and grandchildren, who were born after 1961.
They became eligible to register their births in Portugal and obtain citizenship or get a ‘bilhete de identidade’, which is said to be as good as getting a Portuguese citizenship. According to the sources, many Goans use the ‘bilhete de identidade’ to travel across Europe as it makes the Schengen visa redundant.
Many have sought employment in Europe on the basis of the bilhete. Government statistics says that there are around 400,000 Goans who have registered their births in Portugal, but, do not have a Portuguese passport or bilhete de identidade. With the increase in globalisation it is quite possible that the system will allow people to enjoy the dual or may be multiple citizenships, but as far as the Goa is concerned, it is mandatory to allow the people and their heirs to have dual citizenship as the existing code in Goa is still governed by the Portuguese law to some extent.
It may be recalled that High-level inter-ministerial meeting took place in the New Delhi on 5th June 2015 in presence of additional secretary & ministry of law and justice to suggest that “one-time amnesty” may be granted to these Goans to retain their Indian citizenship as per the law, but this will have to be provided (for) in the Citizenship Act/rules through an amendment; only then can it (amnesty) be done”.
But the same has not been accepted by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). There were even cases of filing the FIRs against people including the politicians and police personnel in the state.
The Indian government has set up the new committee to handle an issue of Portuguese nationality and birth registration in Portugal. There are hundreds of thousands of Goans who have registered themselves in Portugal and enjoying the dual nationality. But now according to the new development, the Goans who have obtained the Portuguese nationality by registering their names in Portugal are most likely to lose their Indian citizenship, said the sources. The orders have been issued by the high-level central committee to take the action against the dual citizens as per the Indian law.
However, the Inter-Ministerial Committee has made thorough groundwork on this issue and came up with the conclusion that in the case of any disputes arises pertaining to the Dual nationality it should be determined by provisions of Citizenship Act 1955 and Citizenship Rules 2009.
According to the sources, the law of multi-nationality is allowed in Portugal but in India, it is not the case and due to this there is a serious concern about the dual nationality in India.
The basic advantages of the dual nationality are, those Goans who registered their names in Portugal’s Central Registry automatically become Portuguese citizens, allowing them to travel and buy property there and also in EU countries. But the Indian inter-ministerial committee advocates that whosoever has acquired Portuguese passport automatically became a citizen of Portugal and ceases to be an Indian citizen.
The new amendment if implemented effectively the many Goans will lose their Indian nationality.
In one of the recent development that took place in the dual citizenship issue here in Goa the Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar has finally made the statement that Goans with Portuguese passport will surely lose their citizenship either in India or in Portugal while the rest of the Goans who only has their births registered in the Lisbon that does not make them Portuguese national will be able to retain their Indian citizenship.
Mr. Parsekar also urged Goans to introspect on the contentious issue. “There is no scope for dual citizenship. There is a need for our Goans to introspect. They should not leave their citizenship and opt for another nationality.”
He also taunted the long queue of Goans that is usually seen at Altinho outside the Portuguese consulate saying that “I feel now it’s high time that people should retrospect, especially those who stand in big Q early morning and in the afternoon under the hot sun at Altinho. There are no restrictions on going abroad and working but they need to think twice before surrendering their Indian citizenship.”
Till date, most of the Goans were carefree about the Portuguese passport issue considering that it is their birthright but now the changing trends in the Indian law and government intervention in this has made the issue serious. This is the high time that Portuguese passport holders may have to reconsider their dual nationality and give up one of the two.
SOURCE: GOA PRISM | IMAGES: JOEGOAUK