THE PORTUGUESE Consulate General in London has recorded a 40 per cent increase in the number of registrations, with more than 150 new Portuguese immigrants registering every week, says a source from the diplomatic office.
Since the beginning of this year, more than 1,700 Portuguese citizens have made their way to Portugal’s only representative office in the UK, situated in London, in order to make their application.
Statistics show that, at the end of the first quarter in 2004, around 100 Portuguese were registering at the consulate every week, 50 less per week than recorded this year. The Portuguese Consul, João Bernardo Weinstein, considers the increase to be “extraordinary” and has been “really surprised” by the figures.
It is well-known that the English enjoy a love affair with Portugal, and particularly the Algarve, but, with these new statistics, it now seems the compliment is being returned. “Thousands of people are continuing to arrive at our consulate wanting to register, who are going to work in London or in other parts of England,” says the consul.
Many do not register
It is estimated though that the emigration phenomenon of Portuguese going to the UK may be even greater than the statistics show, because many Portuguese workers do not bother to register, since it is not obligatory. “We are disappointed that lots of immigrants do not want to register, because this prevents us from making a true analysis of the community and also from providing assistance,” says Weinstein.
The consulate confirms that those who register include people working nearby in London, those whose employers demand they register and those who were not born in Portugal but can claim Portuguese nationality, such as citizens born in Angola and Brazil.
The official Portuguese community in the UK totals 109,000, however, since so many are ‘invisible’ because they never register as immigrants, the consul believes there are as many as 250,000 Portuguese spread throughout England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Weinstein, who has held the post of consul for two years, says the profile of the average Portuguese immigrant is “young, between 20 and 30 years old, and with little educational background”.
Second consulate needed
Top priority at the moment is the creation of a second consular office in Manchester, where many new Portuguese immigrants are working for food production companies. The decision was already approved and published in Portugal’s legal newspaper, Diário da República. It now depends on the government of José Sócrates for it to become a reality.