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Brexit Fate of thousands of Goans hangs in balance

Brexit Fate of thousands of Goans hangs in balance

12 Feb 2018 No comment 8 hits

Keith Vaz
When the United Kingdom shockingly voted to leave the European Union on June 23, 2016, the lives of 3.2 million EU citizens across the country were immediately turned upside down. No community in the United Kingdom has been affected more than the Goans who are currently in the country on Portuguese passports.

Uncertainty

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 were impacted. Banks were nervous about loaning money to EU citizens and in a survey by Residential Householders, 20% of landlords surveyed were reluctant to tenant their homes to EU citizens.

Bargaining chips

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. Prime minister Theresa May herself stated in October 2017 that “we don’t know what’s going to happen” to EU nationals living in the UK if Brexit negotiators fail to reach a deal. Leaks coming from the government in August 2017 suggested that there would be a very restrictive approach to EU migration after March 2019.

Where EU citizens stand, deal or no deal

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.

As things stand, if an agreement with the EU is reached by March 2019, all 3.2 million EU citizens legally in the United Kingdom will have the right to remain after the UK formally exits the EU and they could potentially bring family, provided that they are family members at the time of the withdrawal date.

But in the event of no deal, we still don’t know what will happen to EU citizens. While the government claims that negotiations are going well, chancellor Phillip Hammond, in his budget, set aside £3 billion to prepare for no deal.

There are 446 days left until Brexit, and citizens still don’t know their fate.

Freedom of movement

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.

Benefits of migration

Migrants to the United Kingdom form a vital part of the fabric of our country. Across fields like the arts, sports and politics, we have seen and celebrated the achievements of those who have come to our country with a desire to work hard and succeed.

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.

What next

These are worrying and uncertain times, especially for those who have left their homes in Goa to come to the UK. I have three recommendations for actions that I feel Goans in the United Kingdom should take. Firstly, they should check their documentation, finding out their current status in the UK. Secondly, they could then follow one of two options, either applying for leave to remain or alternatively, they could make an application for British citizenship. Finally, I think that Goans must become as politically active in the UK as they are at home. I marvel at the politics of the great state of Goa every time I visit. Goans in the United Kingdom should email their MPs regarding their cases and ensure they have taken steps to prepare for all outcomes.

Brexit will be a shock. We need to ensure that Goans living in the UK know their rights and that they can continue to make the great contribution they are currently making to their new home.


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Source: Brexit Fate of thousands of Goans hangs in balance

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