The nationality law in debate

On 23 July 2020, the Parliament has approved the amendments of the Portuguese Law of Nationality. The amendments should enable individuals with a Portuguese grand-parent to access nationality without having to prove their connection with the community; ease access for spouses of Portuguese citizens; and provide access to citizenship to newborns of foreign parents, if they have resided at least a year in Portugal.

Without blocking completely the process, the President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa opposed a “political veto” to the amendments, recommending that they do not favour only couples with Portuguese children.

For the advocate of this reform, socialist MP Constança Urbano de Sousa, Marcelo’s comments will be adapted, although she trusts that the main objective of the reform should be the introduction of Jus Solis for newborns of foreign parents.

On 2 October 2020, the Parliament finally approved the Law, including the proposals made by the President. It is now back to the presidential palace in Belem for approval. Is Portugal on the way to Jus Solis?

Black Lives Matter in Portugal?

In one of the first posts I published on this blog, I wondered about the taboo surrounding questions of racism in Portugal. The last months have been the occasion for Portuguese to reflect more on this topic.

@N. Mordechai. Graffiti in Calçada da Gloria, Lisbon

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis, USA, on 25 May 2020, protests errupted around the world, including in Portugal. 5000 people gathered in Lisbon and more than a thousand in Porto, united around the issue of Black Lives Matter. In Lisbon, apart from the protests, some also participated in attempting to bring down statues associated with colonialism and racism, including the controversial statue of Padre António Vieira (which I visited a few days later to find it already cleaned up, as if nothing had happened). I put an image of the statue here below. It seemed to have been vandalised by an informal collective called Desconolizando, but this act was then condemned by SOS Racismo for hate speech…

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Did the emigrants come back for the holidays?

Beginning of July 2020, and after months of lockdown, followed by timid bits of return to normal life, I decided to travel north and visit the villages I had seen for the last time in January.

I was in touch with two families in particular: one split across France and Bragança area; and the other reunited because of the effects of the sanitary crisis on employment (the oldest son was abroad, and his workplace closed, forcing him to go back to Bragança’s region). For the first family, the summer is the time the grand-children come to the grand-parents, and this for the entire holiday period. We talked by messenger for a while, and they told me they would try to travel south and to cross the border the same night I travelled north.

After a night in the village, early morning, the grand-parents and myself were anxiously waiting for the message saying that they had effectively crossed.

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1 in 8 beneficiaries of the Programa Regressar settles in the periphery

Last 23 July 2020, the State Secretary for Portuguese Communities, Berta Nunes, announced that the “Programa Nacional de Apoio ao Investimento da Diáspora” was approved by the Government (Conselho de Ministros). The programme includes fiscal incentives for small and medium entreprises set up by emigrants (who will gain the status of Investidor da Diáspora) in Portugal, in tourism or construction for instance. Nunes also announced this will translate into institutional contact points, at national and municipal levels. Publico also relayed the information, and the statement that this move aims at tapping into the “double potential” of Portuguese communities: investors and factors of economic internationalisation.

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Documentary watching binge

Sick of watching the same series again and again? Looking for a change? At a time where we cannot leave our houses, here are some resources on Northeastern Portugal, migration and return (this also works in winter, rainy days, sick days or just when one cannot read or write anymore!).

Disclaimer: Some I haven’t seen entirely (yet). And if you think of more, feel free to share!

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Return migration and aging rural areas in the time of Covid-19

Disclaimer: this post was first published on 24 March 2020, but I tried to update it regularly… Last update: 30 April (day of the declaration of the State of Calamity, to replace the State of Emergency).

The academic community is extremely involved in the debate on the Covid-19 pandemy. And this does not only concern the ones in public health, microbiology and medecine. Migration scholars too are following closely the news. Just as an illustration, my colleague Thomas Lacroix has created a thread where he compiles articles on the topic.

In fact, people who experience migrations are particularly vulnerable at this moment. Decent housing, health insurance coverage, the possibility to work from home, virtual social networks to deal with the social isolation, language command, and savings… all what I don’t really have to think about… some are haunted by the lack of it every minute the last few weeks.

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Public service work and discretion in migration policies

A publication is out!

Some weeks ago, the RIEM (Revista Internacional de Estudios Migratorios) published my article “The role of established immigrants within institutionalised immigrant integration in Israel. I wrote this article after having submitted my dissertation, with the idea to focus on one aspect of it: street level bureaucrats.

As a matter of fact, a large part of the interviews I conducted was with persons working in municipalities and other governement agencies, and were in direct contact with the residents. They were part of the welfare department, the employment department and more frequently, the department dealing with immigration and so-called integration-related matters.

The many differences I could spot between each city’s policies were in part to be attributed to these street level bureaucrats. I tried to make sense of it through this article.

This has also impacted our arrival in Portugal. Throughout the administrative maze that one immigrant follows, one can only recognise the high level of discretion public service workers have: at the tax office, at social security, at the clinic, and at the home office (SEF here in Portugal). Every person tells a different story, and by coming twice for the same thing, you might get two different responses.

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Winter is coming

The title of this post is obviously a marketing ploy.

But more seriously, after a week in Trás-os-Montes, I believe again in the power of seasons over our overall rhythm.

While the Christmas decorations were mere reminders that a week before, families were celebrating the end of the year’s festivities together, I arrived in Trás-os-Montes through a thick fog, and surrounded with the smell of burnt wood.

I had a plan to shoot some images at the houses of the people I met during the summer. Unfortunately, everyone was gone, had a cold, and in general, was not as eager as during summer days to show outside of their home.

First, I was frustrated. But I thought this was part of winter life in the region: empty villages once the sun sets, cold and foggy weather… So I took the decision to film just this. The absence.

To be fair, there were some people: the ones working – in agriculture in the villages, and in shops and services in Bragança. In the city, it seems that winter was also an opportunity to renovate the roads and sites. I decided to expand my horizons, and I visited Vimioso, Mirando do Douro, Vila Real and Chaves. Every where were works, renovations, and… empty streets, closed shops… The north was getting ready for its visitors!

Celebrating return: emigrants’ festival(s)

My former institution, Migrinter at the University of Poitiers, hosts for the last years a large project called CAMIGRI – Les campagnes françaises dans la dynamique des migrations internationales. And CAMIGRI publishes regularly works carried out by their team, or by collaborators in their newsletter.

I was happy to be invited to present a short account of my work in Trás-os-Montes this month, and here is the result!

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A little bit of politics

Last 6 October 2019, the Portuguese elected the new members of the parliament. Without much surprise, the Socialist Party led by Antonio Costa took the lead, followed by the Social Democrats and the Left Block. In the following days, the debates focused on the future coalition Costa might bring together, replicating the anterior minority government supported by the Left Bloc and the Communists (called here geringonça). Eventually, the Socialist Party will govern alone, and will have to request support and make compromise – a fragile position to hold.

I decided to check what this all means for the residents of Trás-os-Montes, and for (potential) returnees to the area.

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Airbnb is even in far away rural Tras-os-Montes!

Summer is over, and so are my trips to the north – well, surely I will do some follow-up in the upcoming weeks, but I will not be able to stay as long.

In order to make some sense out the data I collected, I courageously decided to end up the summer with a short presentation at the Royal Geography Society annual conference in London. I say courageously, because I felt quite stupid standing there after such a short time in the project… I was included in a great panel on rural areas and migration, with colleagues working in the field for much longer than me.

My idea was to share a first round of analysis. I decided to map in details of one of the villages I spent time at, and get a full picture of its current occupation. Here is, below, the result. This includes all the houses I could see while walking around.

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