Tens of thousands of Indians have settled in Britain using an astonishing immigration loophole – by becoming citizens of Portugal, even though they’ve never set foot there.
At least 20,000 people have evaded strict checks on non-EU residents coming to the UK after obtaining Portuguese passports in India which give them full rights to live and work here.
Their numbers have surged in recent years and they are just part of a far larger group of hundreds of thousands who have arrived in Britain from outside the EU, many through similar loopholes. The Indians have taken advantage of Portuguese law allowing anyone born before 1961 in the Indian west coast state of Goa and the coastal towns further north of Daman and Diu to give up their Indian passport and become EU citizens simply because these places were once colonies of Portugal.
The loophole is also open to a person’s children and grandchildren.
Philip Hollobone, the Tory MP for Kettering, said: ‘This is an outrageous loophole and it must be closed. This is yet another case of the issuing of passports by an EU country to people who have no intention of going to that country, but head straight to Britain.
‘If we left the EU, we could introduce border controls that would prevent these people from coming in.’
Figures obtained by The Mail on Sunday from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that in June 2014 there were 13,000 Indians holding Portuguese passports living in Britain. By June last year there were more than 20,000 – an increase of 7,000, or more than 50 per cent, in one year.
More than half the Goans with Portuguese passports are living in Swindon. The former market town had only about 25 Goans living there in 2000, but now has more than 10,000, said one of the town’s Goan leaders. They include Maira Esteves, 20, who moved to Swindon nearly four years ago on a Portuguese passport to join her uncle.
A year later, her mother, Rosy, 42, and younger brother Rosh, 15, and sister Riva, 13, arrived. Maira’s father, Mario, 45, has remained in Goa working for Thomas Cook.
Goan Swindon Association president, Nelson Carvalho, 51, moved to the town in 2000 with his wife Roslyn, 49. Both have Portuguese passports and set up home in Britain to give their children, Chloe, 14, and Louis, ten, a better life and education.
Mr Carvalho said: ‘Whoever has come here has used this opportunity to do something good for their family. I am pushing my children to succeed.’
Mr Carvalho, who is a supervisor at a WH Smith warehouse, added: ‘We work hard. We stand on our own feet.’
Holy Rood Catholic Church’s congregation has swelled over the last decade with the influx of Goans and holds monthly services in Konkani, the Goan language. But the new arrivals have put pressure on places at local Catholic schools.
Monsignor Canon Richard Twomey, 79, who was parish priest at Holy Rood church for 27 years before retiring, said the Goans had enriched the community, but added: ‘If they keep coming like they are I don’t know how they’ll cope with schools. For the borough that’s going to be a problem.’
There are around 4,000 Portuguese Indians living in Leicester East, whose MP is Labour’s Keith Vaz, himself a Goan Indian. Among Leicester’s Portuguese Indians is Antonio Machado, 57, who arrived from Daman with his family in 2000. Mr Machado used to earn £250 per week working in a hotel, but for the past five years has been claiming benefits as he gave up his job due to illness.
Asked why he came to Britain, Mr Machado said: ‘For me it was a case of trying for a better lifestyle.’
Maziano Guedes, 31, a BT engineer who settled in Leicester from Daman with his family, said: ‘I wouldn’t go back to India. There is a lot of division in religion and caste, and bribery.’
Potentially, over a million Indians from Goa, Daman and Diu could come to Britain, since around half of the territories’ two million population can claim Portuguese ancestry. Entire villages near the Goan capital Panaji have emptied as its inhabitants migrated to Britain in recent years.
To cope with demand, an entire industry of law firms have set up in Goa and the Portuguese capital Lisbon to help Indians prove their parents or grandparents were born in the former colonies before 1961.
There are also dozens of blogs and Facebook pages that give applicants free advice on how to apply for a Portuguese passport in Goa.
At the Portuguese consulate in Panaji, queues of locals applying for passports snake out of the building.
Published on :Daily mail.