Another update to Programa Regressar

Since it exists in 2019, and until January 2021, 3,470 benefitted from Programa Regressar. In their majority, they left the country between 2008 and 2015, are rather young, and educated.

In January 2021, the Government amended once more the programme: on top of returnees who can show that they have signed a permanent contract, returnees who mean to set up a company or will be self-employed can now apply to the programme too, and receive benefits. Again, returnees settling in the periphery will get a slightly higher support.

The programme is only for those who return to continental Portugal, excluding Madeira and the Azores. A clause that the Venezuelan-Portuguese Ana Bracamonte is challenging through a petition.

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?

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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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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On the non-habitual resident status: more retirees and less “creative” than hoped?

I recently posted a description of the incentives created by the Portuguese government to attract migrants and returnees.

One mechanism in particular is the target of parliament members in particular and the public in general: the non-habitual resident status. Quick reminder: if you have lived outside of Portugal for the last five years, and you now live more than 182 days per year in the country, you can lower your income tax to a flat 20% rate, and this during 10 years. The main objective of this mechanism is to attract both high-skilled workers and retirees (and this is stated in official documents issued by the tax office). 

But, as I enter the teachers’ room for my lunch break last week, Público’s front page reads: Tax bonus only attracted 8% of brains to Portugal. As a matter of fact, among the 27.367 beneficiaries, there are 2140 “brains”: 1024 are senior management workers in private businesses, 384 engineers, 170 high-tech workers, 80 researchers, 50 IT programmers, 48 professors, 45 fiscal consultants, 42 designers… and “at the end of the table”, says the journalist, seven singers, six musicians, five painters, four psychologists, two sculptors, a surgeon, a dentist and a paediatrician.

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Brexit and Portuguese emigration

The deal negotiated by May has been rejected, and European member states prepare for a no deal Brexit.
What does it mean for Portugal you may ask?
Well, one thing is what it means for Portuguese in the UK. I just came across today’s news and here is a screenshot of what worries Portugal.

With more than 300,000 Portuguese living in the UK, consular services are expected to be more solicited than usual, says the article, and this will require extra resources.

I did some homework, since this is not really my field, and it seems that the fear comes from the fact that without a deal, the March 2018 draft withdrawal agreement which provides that “a number of residency rights for EU citizens and their families, whether EU citizens or not, would be protected and continue in the same way as they currently exist under EU law” (see Adrienne Yong’s article on the topic) will not be applied. The EU settlement scheme is a partial success and it is not clear if it will continue. And the transition period provided by the now rejected deal (until December 2020) is at risk.

And indeed, in a fact sheet created by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, published in 2016, it was stated “EEA migrants and their family members should be able to continue to exercise treaty rights to live, work and study in the UK until such a time as negotiations for the UK to officially leave the EU have come to a conclusion”. Well… No conclusion yet…

If this is not yet clear what will happen next, the 3 million EU residents in the UK are quite uncertain of their future status, including the 10% Portuguese among them.

Research and moving images

In the last post, I spoke of a documentary film shot by a filmmaker. Nonetheless, many visual productions are actually academic works. When it comes to Portuguese mobilities, scholars have actually been quite fond of documentary filmmaking, and other moving images.

As a matter of fact, among the works I started collecting, sociologist Filomena Silvano started to reflect on this flow of migrations through documentary filmmaking as early as 1997. She participated in shooting two movies: Este é a minha casa, and Viagem à Expo, both staging Portuguese emigrants between their French home and Portugal.

Manuel Antunes da Cunha published a book (2009) based on his dissertation on the representations of Portuguese migrants in TV shows. He highlights the “success narrative” at work in those programmes.

The same year, João Sousa Cardoso defends his thesis on the imaginary of the Portuguese community in France through moving images. His census shows that there were 32 films between 1967 and 2007 on the topic.

In her thesis, and I would like to briefly present here the third section, Inês Espirito Santo (2013) looks at two films in particular: O Salto, filmed by Christian de Chalonge in 1967, and La Photo Déchirée of Jose Vieira, filmed in 2001; before she presents her own production J’ai toujours voulu voir plus loin que ce que je voyais.

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And from the slums they rise

I might have to alterate this dramatic title…

In any case, the quest continues: What are the stories behind the great number of 750,000 Portuguese residing in France in the 1970s? How those stories, the collective ones, the individual ones, the ones promoted by the government(s), the ones by activists and artists, all participate in producing the “emigrant character”, that might eventually return to their homeland?

Last week, I finished watching the documentary film Les gens des baraques (1996), by filmmaker Robert Bozzi. Once again, the slums surrounding Paris make for the decor of Bozzi’s film. 25 years after having filmed in the slums for the Communist Party, he comes back with a quest: finding the baby of one of the moving images he shot.

The baby Bozzo looks for (extracted from the movie)

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Traversées de la mémoire

Last week was a blast. Together with my colleagues Lucie Bacon and Noémie Paté, the gathering we have been organising for a year finally happened in Marseille.

Migrations : nos voix, nos chemins de traverse, was thought as an encounter between sciences, arts and activisms. With minimal subsidies, hours of free work, and amazing support from local partners and the participants to the event, the gathering took place in alternative cultural spaces of Marseille, such as Equitable café, le Garage Imaginaire or Dar Lamifa, and drew photographers, creative writers, filmmakers, scholars, plastic artists, radio broadcasters, musicians, storytellers, activists and, well, just residents of Marseille and beyond!

On the first day of this event, we organised the screening of three – rather different – documentaries related to international migrations, followed by a debate with the audience. One of the selected films is Traversées de la Mémoire (2017), by Erika Thomas

Photographer Gérard Bloncourt shows his work to the camera.

Beside my obvious interest in the topic, the idea of taking thirty minutes to look at more “historical” immigration stories made a lot of sense. And during the debate, it was perceived exactly like that: it is necessary to take a break, look behind, and think about what happened before.

In general, Traversées de la mémoire is a well-polished, informative documentary film. It focuses on one particular group of people: those who were more involved in anti-colonial protests, in immigrants’ struggles and in general, the activists and the artists.

Traversées de la mémoire start at the archives, together with Vasco Martins and Marie-Christine Volovitch-Tavares. The audience was rather mesmerized by this meticulous archival work, and participants mentioned it in the following discussion. The space occupied by all the labelled folders give some “thickness” to the story, a proof that someone was there to testify, and that it happened.

The film also shows Gérald Bloncourt*, Haitian photographer who has extensively photographed the arrivals of Portuguese in France in the 1960s. His work is usually considered a substantial documentation of this migration wave.

Nevertheless, filmmaker José Vieira has something to say about this portfolio: once again, the lives of the Portuguese new comers is documented through its hardships: the slums, the mud, and wandering children. Vieira shows that he collected family shots that are festive, and document happy family events, where one cannot see the mud.  This also provokes reactions in the audience: the photographer does not necessarily need to document poverty to challenge the dominant discourse; and members of the group do not necessarily need to like the work of the photographer.

A last point tackled during the debate was that of collective action. This is something to research more in details, but there was some understanding that the close relationships between new comers permitted to organise more efficiently than in today’s fragmented environment.

Unfortunately, there was no one in the audience that claimed she or he could directly relate to the stories told. I wonder how this documentary was received by members of the communities: an avenue to further explore!

*Gerald Bloncourt passed away on the very day I wrote this post…

A chronology of Portuguese presence in France

Two weeks ago, I went back home to find that my book order came in! 100 ans d’histoire des Portugais en France by Marie-Christine Volovitch-Tavares was published in 2016, a hundred years after the first labour agreement signed by Portugal and France.

I think that was a great book to get acquainted with the history of this immigration – I was actually mainly recommended La dictature de Salazar face à l’émigration: l’État portugais et ses migrants en France (1957-1974) of Victor Pereira, but I just received a notification that it was on its way and I should receive it soon.

In any case, 100 ans d’histoire des Portugais en France is full of details, stories, portraits, pictures, newspapers’ articles and archives. In order to make some sense out of this material, I thought to draw a timeline.

First of all, that sounds easier than it seems! Like a good millenial, I immediatly refered this issue to my friend Google, which gave me a lot of online free options. I tried this: The problem is, if you do not have a premium, then the export is sloppy and rather hard to read.

I decided to resolve to excel. I put all the 1916 to 1975 year-data together. as a first step, and asked my second friend youtube a nice tutorial to create a timeline. Here is what I managed to do so far:

I still have some work to do: maybe someone in the crowd have had some good result and can share it with me?

In general, what strikes most in reading the timeline is the increasing presence of Portuguese after the 1960s: from 50,000 to 750,000 in just 13 years. That explains a lot about the demographic loss I wrote about in my last post. Surely, some people are the same! The less labour agreements came into force, the more undocumented entries were seen. And these undocumented exits and entries are hard to trace back.

The second interesting “cloud” of data, is that of the institutional arrangements that changed with the intensification of Portuguese immigration: new offices, closer to the main residential areas of Portuguese, pressure towards the consulate, and after 1974, numerous official visits to normalise the presence of Portuguese, regulations for immigrants’ savings in Portuguese banks… etc.

What misses however here, is the meso-level, in between the big historical events reported, and the everyday stories and people’s portraits depicted in the book. I hope to find more about that in the other books transiting in the hallways of international post services!