Preface: Devika Sequeira is one of Goa's top journalists. She is one journalist from whom more is expected. She is eloquent, to the point and unafraid to speak her mind.  TGF found the following GoaNet dialogue between Devika Sequeira & Lisbon based Livia de Abreu Noronha & Jorge de Abreu Noronha very intriguing.   The material has been edited for web presentation. TGF comments are added.

 

Please be sure to read: Applying for Portuguese Nationality - by Paulo Colaço Dias

            

Identity   Crisis
Devika Sequeira
Dec 10, 2002
 


A lucrative racket enables bogus applicants to assume identities of deceased Goans to apply for Portuguese citizenship - Devika Sequeira


Five centuries ago, Vasco Da Gama opened up the sea route to India with historic repercussions in the colonisation of Goa, Daman and Diu. Five hundred and four years on, a Portuguese citizenship facility available to Goans has given unscrupulous agents and touts a lucrative means to establish an illegal migration route to Portugal, and the economic opportunities of the European Union.

A huge international racket in granting Portuguese nationality under a clause meant only for persons from Goa, Daman and Diu (which were former Portuguese colonies) has edged out genuine applicants from Goa, and is being grossly misused even by extremists, says former union minister for external affairs and Congress MP Eduardo Faleiro.

Terrorist Masood Azad (who had been released by the Government of India during the Kandahar hijacking) and Abu Salem were both found with Portuguese passports. This in itself revealed the extent to which the system in Lisbon's Conservatorio dos Registos Centrais (the Central Registrar's office), responsible for processing applications, had been compromised, the MP points out.

Most genuine applications made through the Portuguese Consulate General in Panjim have been mired in Lisbon's bureaucratic red-tape for years (one applicant said she has been waiting nine years). But a payment of $5,000 can fetch one a Portuguese passport (under the Goa clause) within three months in Lisbon, Mr Faleiro's investigations have established. The sub-system operates through agents and touts working in collusion with the registrar's office.

What the Rajya Sabha MP finds particularly galling, is that the consulate in Goa, established during his tenure as external affairs minister to facilitate procedures for the people of Goa, Daman and Diu has been rendered totally ineffectual and has shut down the channel for new applicants here.

Sources in the consulate confirmed that the decision was taken by the new Consul-General Miguel Calheiros Velozo. "He was so shocked by the extent of the racket, that he asked us to discontinue accepting applications," they said. 'Documentation agents' (those who can facilitate the recovery of crucial birth and residency documents from a Kafkaesque registrar's office here, and have them attested), once identified only by word of mouth, are openly advertising their services here today.

Consular staff say though they know many applicants are fake, they have to just turn a blind eye to the racket. "We have seen Punjabis and even Bangladeshis and Pakistanis applying under assumed Goan identities, but can do nothing about it because we are no more than a sorting office to reroute applications to Lisbon." The consulate has handled 3,000 applications from the time it was established here in 1994. Yet 15,000 applications (received directly in Lisbon) are believed to be pending with the state's home department for the attestation of documents. Less than half of these would be genuine, sources say. Some agents are said to have resurrected the identities of dead Goans, recovered their birth certificates from the archives, and falsified records.

"The entire process is based on Indian documentation that is easily falsified, making it all the easier for unscrupulous people to manipulate the system,"  consulate sources say. Since no co-operation agreement exists between India and Portugal in the matter, bringing the culprits to book becomes all the more difficult. When authorities in Diu wanted to book agents involved in falsifying documents there, the Portuguese authorities refused to part with the documents in their possession, sources said.

Under Portugal's nationality law of 1975, those born in Goa, Daman and Diu before 1961 (when Goa was liberated) and their descendants upto a third generation are still entitled to Portuguese citizenship. A similar -- but time-bound -- option had been offered to former Portuguese colonies of Mozambique and Angola. Said to be under pressure from the European Union to wind up the option for Goa, Daman and Diu after the tide of traffic from here to Europe in recent times, Portugal's right-wing government would be only too happy to oblige, many here believe.

"If they did that, they would have to wind up their consulate in Goa, and this would be seen as an unfriendly act toward India," says Mr Faleiro. The MP counters criticism that those seeking to migrate are anti-national. "It is obvious that people from here who seek citizenship elsewhere do so purely for economic reasons. But they remain wedded to their country of origin," he says.

Consulate sources say the problem of bogus applicants could be easily weeded out of the system, if Portugal's external affairs ministry set its mind to it. It shut down the Mumbai consular office and expelled staff involved in the passports racket from the Delhi embassy some years ago. But it has failed to clamp down on the racket in its own backyard in Lisbon. Hopes are now being pinned on the new consul-general here to both clean up the system, and rejuvenate a laidback consulate which has achieved close to zero in terms of trade or culture in this part of India.


TGF comment

[The suspected
terrorists Masood Azad & Abu Salem did NOT have  Portuguese passports when they were arrested in Lisbon. Their  "passports"  were FORGED!  

Red tape exists within civil services everywhere in the world, Portugal is no exception. The information TGF has is that the extra delay in processing applications from Goa is partly related to the fact that many non-Goans have obtained
fake birth certificates showing them as Goans. Now Lisbon displays a high degree of distrust towards certificates from India - even though these certificates have been certified by the Portuguese Consulate in Goa.

It is important to note that this degree of red tape is not apparent during the processing of applications for Portuguese nationality from children of Goans born outside India.

Having said that, stories about
the inappropriate goings on, in the Portuguese Consulate in Goa, are very disconcerting indeed.  ]

TGF
December 21, 2002


 

Why these constant reports? Is there a hidden motive?

These constant reports of Eduardo Faleiro's declaration on "Passport Racket" at the Conservatoria in Lisbon "trazem agua no bico", as the Portuguese saying goes and the meaning of which is "tem uma intencao reservada". Literally it can be translated as " have a hidden motive behind it".

The whole statement about "rackets at the Conservatoria" falls to the ground because the Conservatoria does not issue passports. The Conservatoria is the Government office for registration of Births and Deaths and other co-relative acts such as marriage, divorce, etc.

It is widely known that the Portuguese passports held by the terrorists are either fake or are some of those that were stolen from the Portuguese Consulates in Islamabad, Paris, etc. and even from the "Governo Civil" of some of the districts of Portugal.


Recently, Portuguese authorities dismantled an "office" where false passports were being issued for USD 5,000.00 and even false Identity Cards were being issued. The culprits were persons of African and Indian origin.

Mr. Faleiro, who I presume has a birth registration in Portugal because he was born here, should know better than Devika Sequeira that before one can apply for a passport (at the "Governos Civis" and not - I repeat - not at the "Conservatoria") one has to have an Identity Card (with photo and finger print), and to obtain an Identity Card one has to present a birth certificate, and the latter is issued by the various "Conservatorias do Registo Civil", depending on where one is registered. The "Conservatoria dos Registos Centrais" is only for those born outside Portugal.

Another important point is that, when an individual over 18 years old applies for Identity Card for the first time, this means that prior to this he had a different nationality and therefore he has to present, besides Birth Certificate, his foreign passport and some other old Identification Document.

Please stop to think that
all the delays in the processing of "Transcricao de Nascimento" and "Atribuicao de Nacionalidade" are due to all the forgeries and fake documentation coming from Goa, Daman, Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli. I think Mr. Faleiro should see to it that due care and respect is given to the Registration Books at the various Registrar's offices in Goa and (if possible for him) also of the other aforementioned territories where already records of many people are missing.

It is precisely because of the detection of various forgeries that the
"Conservatoria dos Registos Centrais", once it receives the documentation (directly in some cases and through the appropriate Consulate in others), invariably requests the Consulate in Goa to verify and certify the authenticity of the birth and marriage certificates; and, for that purpose, the Consulate approaches the respective Registrar's or Sub-registrar's office in such a way that no forgery is possible.

Hence the delay in processing the documentation till its finalisation, which can take even a few years.

Livia Abreu de Noronha , Lisboa-Portugal
Dec 11. 02

 

****


Who knows better - Livia or the Portuguese Consulate in Goa?

Jorge/Livia (whichever one it is) seems to find it hard to come to terms with the fact that a Portuguese govt department can be so corrupt. The information about the Portuguese registrar's office comes not only from Eduardo Faleiro, but is corroborated also by the staff of the Consulate-General here, who have seen genuine passport applications stalled for over 8 years, while others, sent directly through Lisbon, are processed in a matter of a few months.

But perhaps you know better than them how the racket operates.

Devika Sequeira, Panjim -Goa
Dec 12. 02

 

****


Whichever one it is ?!

re: 'Jorge/Livia (whichever one it is)',   it is a pity that journalist Devika Sequeira failed to notice the signature at the end of the post of December 11. The post was clearly signed "Livia".

Now the present post goes to you all from Jorge.

Neither Jorge nor Livia finds it hard "to come to terms with the fact that a Portuguese govt department can be so corrupt", as unfortunately nowadays corruption is prone to occur in the - apparently at least - most august places, including the sanctimonious corridors of the Vatican.

But the Portuguese law circles have been making efforts to curb any and every instance of corruption that is detected or sensed. For instance, it is known that a couple of years ago at least one officer of the "Conservatoria dos Registos Centrais" was placed on compulsory retirement and precluded from entering the premises of that department when he was found to be engaged in less appropriate dealings.

We think that the names of those who act corruptly should be publicly denounced - with proof, of course.
And the names of the accusers should also be made known. So, if the name(s) of "the staff of the Consulate-General" in Goa "who have seen genuine passport applications stalled for over 8 years, while others, sent directly through Lisbon, are processed in a matter of a few months" can be made known, and if those cases which are deemed to have been unduly hanging for over 8 years and at least one instance of a case that, having been submitted directly to Lisbon, was processed in a matter of few months are brought to our notice, we promise that the matter will be taken by us to the adequate official agencies (including the Law Ministry and the Public Ombudsman) for complete clearance and for the bringing-to-book of those who were or are at fault in all this "racket".

Because we think that a person who makes such grave assertions as "have seen passport applications (unduly) stalled for over 8 years, while others, sent directly through Lisbon, are processed in a matter of a few months" should be prepared to come forward and put his/her signature below such a statement, and not make the assertion and remain in anonymity.

One more thing: As regards "sent directly through Lisbon", the question arises: to whom were those applications sent "through" Lisbon? Or is it that instead of "sent directly through Lisbon" the journalist actually wanted to say "submitted directly to Lisbon"? It may be argued that it is simply a matter of linguistics, but it is not: "sent through Lisbon" is not the same as "submitted to Lisbon".

It is ridiculous to speak of a delay of 8 or whatever number of years in processing "passport applications".  Please note that:

(1) "Conservatoria dos Registos Centrais" is the "Central Registrar's Office" where births, deaths,  marriages, divorces of Portuguese nationals born, dead, etc. out of Portugal (case of Goa, for example) are registered. Passports are not issued at this office.

(2) "Servicos de Identificacao Civil" (usually called "Arquivo de Identificacao Civil") is the department which issues identity cards. There are "Servicos de Identificacao Civil" in every district of this country and in some other important cities. A birth certificate (and a marriage certificate, if the applicant is married) is a "sine qua non" requirement for applying for an identity card.

(3) "Governo Civil" is the entity which issues passports. There are 18 districts in continental Portugal, 3 in the Autonomous Region of the Azores and 1 in the Autonomous Region of Madeira, and any of the Civil Governments of these districts is entitled to issue passports.

Every citizen must have an identity card. Holding of a passport is not obligatory; but no one can obtain a passport without having an identity card.


Jorge de Abreu de Noronha , Lisboa-Portugal
Dec 13. 02


 

****

The fraud occurs in India !

Devika (Sequeira) said: "
Terrorist Masoo Azad ... and Abu Salem were both found with Portuguese passports."

It is true that those individuals "were both found with Portuguese passports",  but the journalists (intentionally?) failed to state that those passports were fake ones. Besides, Salem was also in possession of Indian and Pakistani passports? Genuine or fake passports? Your guess is as good as mine.

if the Conservatoria dos Registos Centrais is not responsible for processing passport applications, how can it be deemed to be compromised in the "passport racket"?

I refrain from developing on the subject of the so-called 'documentation agents' who, as the article "Identity Crisis" reveals, "are openly advertising their services". I shall only recommend to those who might feel tempted to avail themselves of those "services": Beware!

When the consular staff say "We have seen Punjabis and even Bangladeshis and Pakistanis applying under assumed Goan identities, but can do nothing about it because we are no more than a sorting office to reroute applications to Lisbon", this is not entirely true, and those staff surely know it.

If it is true that in the first instance they (the consular staff) act as a mere "sorting office to reroute applications to Lisbon", at a later stage they do have a crucial mission, when they are requested by Lisbon's Conservatoria to verify and certify the authenticity of the certificates submitted.

So, initially the Goa registrar's and sub-registrar's offices are at fault for issuing those
(fake) birth certificates of "assumed Goan identities" to the Punjabis, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis; but the consular staff can surely "smash" those certificates when fulfilling their mission of verifying and certifying their authenticity.

If they Portuguese Consular staff in Goa pass on these fake certificates as authentic, non-authentic certificates, on what ground can the Conservatoria of Lisbon refuse to process them?

As regards "a laidback consulate which has achieved close to zero in terms of trade or culture in this part of India", all I will say is that the journalist is not doing justice to the present consul-general Miguel Calheiros Velozo's immediate predecessor Ms. Vera Fernandes who, throughout her presence in Goa, elicited nothing but praise from the people and the media. Now that she is no longer there, she is accused of having "achieved close to zero in terms of trade and culture" and all hopes are pinned on her successor?


Jorge de Abreu de Noronha , Lisboa-Portugal
Dec 14. 02


****

Wonder Why Devika Sequeira called her article "Identity Crisis"

I wonder why Devika Sequeira called her article "Identity Crisis". Does she wish to convey the idea that those Goans who seek Portuguese citizenship are facing an identity crisis? If so, what about the thousands of Indians (Goans and otherwise) who reside in the USA and have taken American citizenship? Are  they also in crisis and/or are they in some way traitors to India?

Jorge de Abreu de Noronha , Lisboa-Portugal
Dec 15. 02



****


I never respond because Goans carry on quibbling, no matter what!


It has been my policy in general to never respond, because quibbling Goans will carry on quibbling, no matter what. But I am making an exception once again, because there are points that must be countered.

I'm sorry, Jorge, to shatter your illusions about the quality and competence of your consul generals (I assume you are Portuguese from your fierce and blinding patriotism). It might dishearten you to learn that one of the former consuls was known to fudge expenses on travel and entertainment so he/she could claim higher returns from your government. Another had run up an enormous tab at a five star resort here entertaining his jet-setting friends. The hotelier (a repository of the most entertaining and useful information to us journalists) had some very anxious months till your government agreed to clear the  backlog. The same career diplomat was later banished to Bosnia at the height of the ethnic conflict there. One can sympathize with the relieved staff in your consulate here who've set such high hopes on the present consul-general, said to be the best candidate so far.

If your government has achieved anything by way of cultural/economic exchange (one is not referring to Fundacao Oriente) with India through the efforts of previous consuls here, we'd be glad to hear of it.

One last and final point: why journalists don't, and should not, reveal their sources. It is an accepted norm in democratic countries that journalists protect their sources in the larger interest of bringing to light the facts. Which is why most democratic countries do not make it mandatory for the media to make public their source of information even in the court. Take away this practice and perhaps 80 per cent of the better stories would never see the light of day.

Let me remind you of the Nixon case. Would the corruption have ever been exposed had it not been for Deep Throat?

"Where is the proof?" is an argument we often hear from politicians on the defensive. It is not for journalists to prove the corruption in governments. It is for governments to clean up their acts at the slightest hint of a stink.


Devika Sequeira , Panjim-Goa
Dec 16, 02


****

It is cowardly to make grave accusations & hide behind anonimity!

I am Portuguese - or rather a genuine Goan, who loves deeply the land of his birth and who never had any other nationality than Portuguese. Never in my life have I spoken or written "blindly" or "fiercely" either pro or against anybody or anything, but
always stated my points of view with conviction.


re "It might dishearten you to learn that one of the former consuls was known to fudge expenses on travel and entertainment so he/she could claim higher returns from your government" I know who you are referring to and I am by no means disheartened and, as you yourself have pointed out, the latter of the two consuls was served a "banishment" notice, though it might HAVE rightly argued whether it was an adequate punishment or if he deserved a tougher one.

But you have said not a word about the present consul's immediate predecessor Vera Fernandes. Do you think she did not do anything in favour of improving the cultural and other relations between our two countries?


re "One last and final point: why journalists don't, and should not, reveal their sources", Did I say that journalists should reveal their sources? What I said is that "the names of those who act corruptly should be publicly denounced - with proofs, of course" (I didn't say by whom) and that "a person who makes such grave assertions ... should be prepared to come forward and put his/her signature below such a statement, and not make the assertion and remain in anonymity".

It is indeed cowardly for a person to make grave accusations against another person or against an institution (like the "Conservatoria") and hide behind anonymity.

So, let those members of the staff of the Portuguese Consulate-General in Goa who produced those accusations come boldly forward.

For my part, I will send prints of all this e-correspondence to the Public Ombudsman "Provedor de Justicia") of Portugal, with copies to the Ministers of Law and of Foreign Affairs, so that they may judge for themselves whether they want to institute inquiries both at the Consulate and the "Conservatoria" to find out what truth there is in all those allegations.

Jorge de Abreu de Noronha , Lisboa-Portugal
Dec 17,  02

******

November 02, 2003  (courtesy Press Trust of India)

CBI probe into visa racket in Indian High Commission in UK


New Delhi: The government has ordered a CBI probe into an illegal visa racket allegedly involving some officials posted in the Indian High Commission in Britain, sources in the investigating agency said on Sunday night.

The CBI probe followed a request from the Ministry of External Affairs in the wake of certain allegations leveled by Scotland Yard that some officials posted in Indian missions in Britain were involved in forging travel documents.

A team of Scotland Yard had visited the CBI headquarter here recently seeking its help in the probe as Britain's Immigration Department has registered a case in this connection, the sources said.

This is the second case of allegations leveled against officials posted in Indian missions abroad. Earlier, two officials posted in the mission in Trinidad and Tobago were booked by CBI for stealing the passports meant for emergency purposes.

******

TGF comment:

It appears that the stigma of Corruption in India will hurt most genuine Goan applicants for Portuguese Nationality. Over 10,000 allegedly Goan applications are said to be stuck in the pipeline. The "system" has just been overwhelmed by the fake applications.  To cap it all, reports suggest that there are a few gold diggers working for the Portuguese Consulate in Goa.

If anything, Devika Sequeira's article (despite the errors which she has yet to correct) serves as an eye-opener, NOT only to the fraudulent manner in which Punjabis and Biharis have obtained Portuguese Nationality, but also to the fact that Indian certificates are subject to very serious suspicion in many parts of the world.

Having said that, it is important for Goans to understand that obtaining a Portuguese passport is NOT an automatic guarantee to a good job and employment in the Europe Community. Goans MUST equip themselves with a first class education, a first class work ethic, be prepared to work long and hard, and must be good enough to compete with the best in Europe. Above all, Goans MUST learn to articulate well in spoken and written English. If they are unable to do this, they should seriously consider staying put in Goa. The fruits of labour in the West are great, so is the labour!

TGF understands that NOT every Goan who applies to reaffirm  Portuguese nationality in 2003,  is a Goan in need of a job. A significant number of recent applicants are highly qualified and affluent Goans who see Portugal as a modern and all encompassing democracy with a classy culture -  very much like Goa was in the late 1950s and until about 1963.  Furthermore, these affluent and highly educated Goans absolutely and unambiguously wish to disassociate with the narrow minded bigotry and nasty fundamentalism of the Rt. Wing government which has taken control of India and is set to maintain a stranglehold in Goa for many years to come. These Goans are unlikely to settle in Portugal or even seek employment in Portugal. They are just doing what their heart tells them is the right thing to do i.e. say Good Bye to Saffron extremism!

Interesting isn't it, the Goa freedom fighters Jose Inacio Loyola, Pundalik GaitondePurshottam Quenim saw the writing on the wall way back in 1963 and left Goa to settle in , of all the places .....Portugal and the UK


TGF
Dec 24, 03
 

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