Dead men flying

One fine day, you get an opportunity to leave for foreign shores, to earn a livelihood or maybe to simply roam around. You approach the concerned officials to prepare your passport. Therein lies the twist. Say the authorities, that you do not exist in this country.

Many Indians have already faced such a situation, especially while traveling to Portugal. The reason behind this human smuggling involves a bit of history, culture and legalities.

This phenomenon of sending false candidates abroad to Portugal is rampant in Goa and Daman. An astonishing fact is that, rather than certain Goans, who have the right to stake a claim for Portuguese nationality, it is the Gujarati community that has capitalised on the legal loopholes, or can we say opportunities! To start with, let us take a peep into history.

On 18th December 1961, the Indian military annexed the then Portugese occupied areas of the Indian Union i.e. Goa, Daman and Diu. According to the Portugese legislation, any citizen of Goa, Daman and Diu, born in these territories before 18 December 1961 can apply for Portugese nationality.

The 1975 Portugese National Law also holds that, descendants of those born before 1961, until their third generation, can apply for a valid Portugese passport. This is because Portugese government concluded that, in 1961, Indian citizenship was imposed on the residents of those territories. Hence those nationals should be provided with an opportunity to obtain Portugese citizenship, if they declare their intention and register their births and deaths at Lisbon.

However, many non-eligible Indians took this rule as an opportunity to gatecrash into Portugal and then other European nations. These illegal entrants take the assistance of various agents or touts. This whole racket has become a flourishing industry in itself, so much so that these touts are advertising their services openly in Goa and Daman. However, the Goa consulate, as well as the Portugese officials prefer to keep mum about these activities. Even though the middlemen have a prominent role to play in such rackets, the role of the embassy and consulate officials cannot be ignored. However, such matters never come to light and this business continue to thrive.

Generally these criminals posses the TEORs of the residents of Goa, Daman and Diu. A TEOR is the birth certificate of a person, born during Portugese rule. These agents sold the TEORs to many Gujarat citizens, notable amongst them are the residents of Kheda Jilla, Nadiad, Dholka, Vaso and Anand.

It has also been observed that many Gujarat residents migrated to UK with the help of these fake certificates. Another shocking fact is that, these culprits obtained the details of dead Catholic citizens from graveyards and used them to fabricate documents. By the time the average Goa and Daman resident came to know about this scandal, many people had already moved to Europe under false names.

This scandal came to light when a certain Mr. Nazim Samsudin complained to the officials. Mr. Samsudin applied for Portugese nationality in the year 1998. He submitted all the required documents and details to the Portugese Consulate at Goa.

However, in January 2001, he received a letter from the officials, stating that someone else had already been registered under his name in the year 1986. Soon other citizens too complained of similar incidents and the police took up this matter seriously. However, in the fake certificate of Nazim Samsudin dated 7-3-86, a certain glitch can be spotted. The culprit, who has forged Samsudinís signature has signed the certificate in Hindi (Devanagari script), but assuming a different name. Had this slip-up been spotted and reported then, maybe this racket could have been nipped in the bud.

This phenomenon exists in case of non-European nations too. Says Addl. CP, Mr. Parambir Singh, ďA few years back I handled a case wherein a producer was smuggling people to Canada. Even though the main culprit died before we could arrest him, we managed to nab the agent.Ē The recent Daler Mehndi incident is a glaring example. Though he was acquitted, his brother stays booked for illegally transporting people under the guise of crew members. One can spot illegal immigrants selling wares near Eiffel Tower in Paris. They make a hasty exit as soon as the police arrives.

However, the advantage of Portugal is that it is a country that comes under the Schengen zone. If one obtains a Schengen visa, he/she can move around 15 countries within Europe, virtually without border checks. Generally these criminals are nabbed while escaping to the USA or UK.

The administration, in this case, is accused of pursuing this fake Portugal passport case at a snailís pace. In fact, this whole scam is supposed to have been initiated by a Civil Registrar cum Sub Registrar, along with a few agents in the 1980s in order to curb the rights of the citizens. Since then, thousands of fake passports have been issued, thereby leaving average citizens in the lurch.

 Excerpted from  Dead Men Flying by  Prashant Shankarnarayan  May 12, 2005

related articles: * †††Journalist Devika Sequeira's: Identity Crisis

        Chairman of the NonResidentIndian Cell in Goa Chandrakant Keni calls Goans who apply for Portuguese Nationality Traitors and wants the Government to Identify and Expel them

                                * †††Paulo ColaÁo-Dias advises genuine Portuguese citizens from Goa how to reclaim their nationality

back to front page††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

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