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Will Brexit Shatter Hopes of Thousands of Goans Settled in UK ?

With India continuing to be the largest country of origin of international migrants and with India having the largest number of migrants living abroad, no community in the United Kingdom has been affected more than the Goans who mostly are in the country on Portuguese passports with the Brexit issues that surface time by time. 

In recent times, Goans using the Portuguese nationality gained access to the European, especially, British job market. Goans began working in many and varied professional fields, from hairdresser to university professor, information technology specialist, and finance genius in the heart of London. 

Till Brexit in January 2020, a number of Goans migrated to the UK as EU citizens without having to go through any immigration-related ordeals. But the uncertainty caused by Brexit has had devastating impacts on the lives of the EU citizens. Not only were they left unsure of their status and their future, but their day-to-day lives was impacted.

The response of the United Kingdom’s government until December last year has unfortunately added to the uncertainty felt by EU citizens in the country. Frequently, EU citizens were referred to as bargaining chips in the press and by members of the government. 

England has proposed an anachronistic points-based immigration system to attract only the ‘brightest and the best. Post-Brexit the UK government will undoubtedly implement a work permit system, uniform to all countries or nationality specific. If country-specific immigration policy, with time-limited work permit programmes and limited options for family unification, is introduced, then such a policy would be agonizing to Goans.  

Generally, the criteria for eligibility for work permit systems in high-income countries are restricted by occupations, with policies being more liberal to skilled jobs. If migration is limited only to certain occupations and, that too, to high skilled labor, it would bring in disappointment and dejection among Goans. Many low-skilled, unskilled, the unemployed, and the others in the process of obtaining the Portuguese passport would be left disillusioned and disheartened.   

However, the UK government will have to make way for the immigration of low-skilled workers required in the agricultural, hospitality, and social care sectors in the UK which the UK nationals are reluctant to take up either because of inadequate skills, improper conditions, or low wages. The coronavirus pandemic has revealed the difficulty of recruiting labour to work in these sectors and, as critics have averred, it would be unbelievable if this does not bring any changes in the proposed migration policy. During the pandemic, sectors of the economy over-represented by migrants including Goans has revealed the value of the migrants, of their occupations, and the inevitable interconnectedness of our lives in a world shrunk by globalization, calling for a rethink of the post-Brexit migration regulation. 

In all, 92,065 people in the United Kingdom have Portuguese passports. It is estimated that there are over 20,000 Goans with Portuguese passports living in the United Kingdom, with the largest concentration being in Swindon and Wembley. Any Goan born before 1961 and their descendants of three generations can claim a Portuguese passport and have the ability to move to the UK while it is an EU member. After Brexit, this will not be the case.

EU citizens, including those who come from Goa, collectively contribute £463 per second to the United Kingdom’s economy. Around 55,000 out of the 1.2 million staff in the English NHS are citizens of other EU countries. According to the English Health Service’s Electronic Staff Record, 10% of doctors and 4% of nurses are from elsewhere in the EU.

The United Kingdom must continue attracting skilled immigrants to the country and must have an immigration system that allows the most capable to come to our country and contribute. Currently, the home office has a backlog of over 100,000 cases and has not shown the ability to react if demand for UK passports increases.

Meanwhile, a recent joint report released by negotiators of the European Union and the UK shows that now there has been some progress on the issue of EU citizens, provided they are able to come to a deal on everything.   

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