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Diversity

For me, Mouraria is like the Tower of Babel, built and rebuilt every day, despite the diversity of languages and its perfect disharmony’ –  (Fatima, teacher and descendant of Cape Verdean migrants)

The history of Lisbon and Mouraria – one of the city’s oldest quarters – both originate from the presence of diverse people and cultures. In 1143, Lisbon was conquered from the Moors by King Alfonso Henriques, becoming a Christian city. The birth of Mouraria goes back to the same period, built outside the walls as the only territory where Moors were authorized to reside.

In the 16th century, the first black migrants were forced into slavery in Lisbon, in that era the largest European centre of the flourishing slave trade. The number of slaves present in the capital reached 10% of the total population, that time comprising 100,000 inhabitants.

In the 18th century, the rebuilding of the city – after its apocalyptic earthquake on All Saints Day, 1 November 1755  – led to significant flows of migrant workers from Galicia, Spain’s most north-western province. In the course of the 19th and 20th century, an exodus from the countryside ignited major demographic growth in the capital just as migration from the Portuguese colonies, in response to the need for labour.

On 25 April 1974, Portugal became a democracy after 48 years of dictatorship. Between April and November 1975, Portugal took in half a million Portuguese and their descendants from its ex-colonies in Africa.

At the end of the ‘80s, a growing number of migrants began to arrive from Brazil, benefitting from a special provision for regularisation. Finally, from the ‘90s onwards, migration towards Lisbon has involved new areas such as Eastern Europe (Ukraine, Romania) and Asia ( Bangladesh, India).

 Mouraria is the most multicultural neighbourhood of the capital. Here you find everything from African grocers to Chines tea, Indian clothing, religious talismans, Bengali restaurants, mosques and halal butchers. The percentage of foreign residents (25%) is well above the average for the city (10%) and the nation (less 4%).

Considered until recently a socially degraded area – situated close to the historical city centre – the neighbourhood is nowadays a breeding ground for integration with tastes, sounds and smells from every corner of the world.

In the heart of Mouraria resides the Associação Renovar a Mouraria (Renovate the Mouraria). This NGO not only develops activities to support the local community (i.e. Portuguese lessons for migrants, a legal help desk, empowerment courses for women and educational support for children) but also organizes cultural events and festivities linked to Saint Anthony in June, when the streets fill with music and the smell of grilled sardines.

Bom fim de semana                 Enjoy the weekend                      (pics Sapo)

Immigration

‘Migration is a right, not a privilege’ – António Guterres, UN Secretary-General

Only immigration can save the Portuguese from extinction as more old people die than babies are born and the number of people leaving the country continues to be greater than the number entering it.

Over the past ten years more than 400.000 ‘new citizens’ have been added to a population of 10 million due to an extension of the law in 2006, allowing expatriates to obtain the Portuguese nationality after residing at least six years in Portugal. But who are these migrants and where do they stay?

The majority of the ‘new citizens’ originate from Portuguese speaking countries such as Brazil (120.000), Cape Verde (75.000), GuineaBissau (35.000), and Angola (35.000).
During the same period, a considerable number of Ukrainians (55.000) and Romanians (35.000) settled in the country.


About half of the ‘new citizens’ live in the Lisbon Metropolitan Area, over 60.000 in the sunny Algarve, about 35.000 around Setúbal and 25.000 in the northern harbor town Porto.
Lately more Western Europeans – primarily French and English – than Eastern Europeans and Africans are entering the country.

Portugal’s state of security, quality of life and favorable fiscal climate – especially of interest for wealthy pensioners from EU countries – definitively play a role.

It has always been difficult to get a residence permit without a fixed work contract. Yet last summer, the socialist government decided to relax the law allowing migrants with a provisional work contract or even a promise of employment, to apply for a permit. Moreover, immigrants caring for minors and those who are born in Portugal may no longer – according to the new legislation – be simply expelled from the country. A prerequisite, however, is that they haven’t entered Portugal illegally.

Timothy Macedo – from the NGO Solidaridade Imigrante (SOLEM) – is happy with the new law, but points out that there are more than 30.000 illegals (the vast majority living in Lisbon) and that most of them are waiting for years to be assessed by the Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF).

Without legal documents, they are condemned to dirty, illegal and badly-paid jobs and deprived of social security.
Cynthia Paula – from the NGO Casa do Brasil – also denounces the lack of political will, huge bureaucracy and enormous waiting lists at the SEF, giving rise to unnecessary ‘slow and unjust’ integration and exploitation of illegal workers.

Bom fim de semana                                              Have a great weekend