Once, in rare expansive mood, Manohar Parrikar then Goa CM remarked that he is at pains to see the long queue of Goans, outside Portuguese consulate seeking Portuguese passport. Little did he do, to halt this silent rejection by average Goans, of the state of affairs in their homeland under his tutelage. At first opportunity, he deserted his Goan brothers and sisters for furthering his own prospects in the process abdicating his tall pre-election promises.
It is in a way superfluous to mention that, what started as trade in silk, gold and spices became a five century long comprehensive socio-economic and cultural engagement where migration to Portugal from Goa became an integral part of relationship rubric. However, motivations for migrations were different at different times.
During the Portuguese rule, the migration was primarily for the purpose of higher education because of non-availability of Portuguese medium higher educational institutions in rest of India. Post-1961, the migration was more out of cultural bonds and a sense of belongingness to the “master”. Then there was twice migration from Mozambique, Angola and Kenya to Portugal once each of this country itself became independent.
The post-nineties migration has been essentially economic migration in search of better employment opportunities, higher living standard and attractive social security benefits in Europe. These migrants often used Portugal as launching pad in boundary-less European Union with a view to spreading out in other countries as the opportunities presented themselves.
The United Kingdom has been one of the most favourite destinations. More so in the current neoliberal world order where IMF and TROIKA are forcing down the throat bitter pills of shrinking public employment and cuts in welfare funds due to austerity in Southern European countries including Portugal. In short, access to the British job market and social security via Portugal is the real motive behind the current outward flow of prospective migrants.
This is further borne out from an Oxford analysis that the “India-born Portuguese citizens” accounted for over 20,000 UK residents in just the first quarter of 2015. Migration Watch UK group that opposes such migration calls it “backdoor entry” into Britain and urges British Government to take urgent steps to close this loophole.
All this makes it imperative to make aware the ever-growing ranks of aspiring migrants the ever-growing uncertainties and flux which the European Union is undergoing, the kind of intra-EU stresses emerging due to divergent views held by various EU member states on the issue of migrants and the near implosion like a situation that prevails in the Union
To begin with, the United Kingdom has never been a full member of the European Union. Britain joined EU in 1973, keeping among other things her monetary sovereignty intact. The reason for this strategy was complicated but in essence bear hallmark of historical British cunning; have it both ways. Reap the benefits of a common market but don’t surrender rights over exchange rate policy.
Things worked to their advantage for a while but then the surge of highly cheap and qualified labour from east Europe (Polish to begin with) started flooding the British market. In order to extract purely political capital, then in opposition Conservative leader David Cameron gave a “cast-iron guarantee” that he would hold a referendum on EU’s Lisbon Treaty which assures free movement of labour across the borders.
Little did he realise that he will get absolute majority and will have to go in for referendum whether to stay in European Union or exit the Union. This is popular parlance is called BREXIT. The current public mood as most of the polls indicate is for exiting the Union.
As quoted in Hindustan Times, Rabi Martins, the Goa-origin councillor in Watford, North London says: (at least now onwards) “It is a walk into the unknown. Goans now need to rethink before applying for Portuguese passports, since the EU referendum will adversely affect them. Brexit will make it worse, but even a vote to stay in will make it difficult.” (Words in Italics are mine).
It is understood in policy circles that even if Britain decides to stay in the European Union, it may negotiate severe restrictions on social security and post-retirement benefits. Interestingly enough this may be acceptable to other member states. Because typical polish and other east European workers stay in Britain for not more than 5 to 6 years.
Once sufficient savings are in the bank, they prefer to return to their home country as most often the quality of life and social benefits back home almost equivalent if not less. On the other hand, an average Goan is not secure of his property under his nose while here, leave alone returning back after some years.
During the two decades, busy in looting spree the ruling class never found time to build any social benefits scheme. As against this, the attractions of easy money from tourism, drugs or velvet packed migration to UK (via Portugal) with low paid, 12 hours backbreaking jobs in the supermarket has always hampered prospects of building a vibrant civil society.
This has done enormous damage to the Goan society and instead of making it a 21st century knowledge-based aspiring society, transformed it into a fractured existence of simpleton village folks unaware of modern white collar criminals, ever mute tiny middle class and a layer of always ready soul less petty traders willing to offer brains and brawls for any cause that fetches them few trinkets.