The situation looks alarmingly uncertain for Goan Portuguese Passport holders residing in the UK. With Brexit looming large and PM Theresa May’s departure, the future does seem bleak for Goans in the UK or those just arriving there. However, the good news is that those who have settlement status, their stay is likely to be long-lived.
According to an Incredible Goa article (Brexit, Practically Did not Impact on the Migration of Goans to the UK), Brexit had hardly deterred migration to the UK. Rather in 2017, the number of migrations stood at an impressive 28,000. Armed with Portuguese passports, they were confident of their jobs, despite the threat of the UK leaving the European Union.
But the truth be told, for most such Portuguese-passport Goans who are there or who have just arrived in the UK the future does not seem too bright.
According to the Herald (Café) many Goans, who have just arrived in the UK and for that matter British Citizens (of Goan origin) themselves do not know what is in store for them.
Working closely with Goans who have just arrived in the UK, lawyer, Vilfredo Pereira De Andrade, advises that at this point of time it is best to wait for the next Prime Minister and see what transpires. “Things are still uncertain and we are a bit anxious. Hopefully, it should be positive for people of the EU,” Vilfredo explained.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a literary personality from the UK reveals that even though they follow politics closely, they are also in the dark as to what might transpire post-Brexit. According to him, as per Theresa May’s discussions with the EU, it is not likely to affect Goans living in the UK. There is, however, a lot of doubt among the new arrivals. They are not aware of their full rights and not being able to converse in English is another impediment.”
British Citizen Marius Fernandes, who had been living in Goa for a while and has now relocated to the UK again, is unnerved with the changes taking place. “It’s been chaos since the Brexit results were declared over two years ago. It’s been such a mess that PM, Theresa May had to resign. The future looks uncertain with border controls which will affect all European citizens in the coming years. We don’t know who will be let in and who will be left out. We don’t know what the future is for us even as British citizens. Before Boris Johnson was in the game, it was different. The contention is that prices are set to rise and travel will be more expensive and job cuts with effect on labor rights will have an impact on all. You couldn’t ask for the worst scenario for Britain,” he said.
In the current scenario, panic arising from a misunderstanding about Brexit is palpable, but Vilfredo advises people to keep their fingers crossed for a positive outcome as the road map is not clear as yet. “Eventually as a draft is made and things get clear then people will get to know a lot better,” he explains adding that this aspect is more pertinent to people wanting to enter Europe with a Portuguese passport.
“If Brexit comes about after EU and Britain agree to the terms and conditions, then there may be a two year grace period after the Brexit date is made effective, as this clause was included in the draft that Theresa May was negotiating with the EU council. Hopefully, things might change for Goans and other Europeans after that,” he explained while warning that the grace period might be conditional as well. However, he assures those already in the UK that things should be fine until further legislation.
“As of now UK is still part of the EU and all Europeans still have a right to live and work or study peacefully in the UK,” he said.
What might be to the advantage of these Goans living in the UK is their ability to speak English. Due to the higher value of the pound, they are able to send money back home to their families in Goa.
In the current scenario, Vilfredo explains that should Brexit not turn out well for those who have recently arrived in the UK, they may have to relocate to Portugal, as they may not be able to meet the threshold to stay in the UK.
Those that have arrived earlier are well settled he points out and probably have nothing to worry about. Many have received settlement status. Even those that have arrived within the last year will be able to meet the threshold.
Panjim based Jessica Fernandes, a Portuguese passport holder, who has been working in the UK for the past six years, is content with the fact that she has a settlement status. Brexit she points out will affect those coming to the UK, after it becomes effective.
“One has to be living in the country for five years to be eligible for the settlement status to stay in the country. There are many Goans living here but some are yet to complete five years. There was a statement that those who are already in the UK shouldn’t be worried but you never know. It’s uncertain as they keep postponing Brexit,” Jessica said.
Luis Fernandes who migrated to the UK as a student and continues to live and work there for the past 10 years expresses similar sentiments. “Nobody knows about post Brexit. There are no fears as EU citizens who were staying before Brexit are guaranteed rights to stay. The changes that are expected are that all prices are going up, from groceries to Europe holidays and one has to think twice before going to Goa,” he stated.
However, the real fear lies in being misguided. “Goans are guiding one another, but it is a case of the blind leading the blind. The Portuguese Embassy has now started to help them including offering lawyer services so that as many as possible stay in the UK instead of ending up in Lisbon. There is a fund for this created by the EU to help them. This program is not just for Goans but all their EU citizens in the UK,” elaborates Vilfredo.
It must be remembered that one of the reasons for Brexit was to stop the large scale immigration from Europe coming to the UK. According to statistics, around half a million people per year migrated to the UK and this was causing changes affecting the poorer sections of Britain. It is understandable why those people voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU.
“The door is still open for Goans, but we do not know when it will shut,” points out Vilfredo. The possibility of the UK not leaving the EU or having a customs union deal which allows them to come in is a positive sign. However, with the proposed PM Boris Johnson plans to leave, it looks even more certain that there will be a departure by October 31. “It’s been three years so people are very frustrated. I think a resolution will be found by October when the deadline expires,” says Vilfredo.
Even as more Goans queue outside the Portuguese embassy in Goa for their Portuguese passport, the big question is ‘what will Brexit give them?’ The deserved good future they are looking for or will it be just another hole in the wall for them.