Portugal’s Brave Stand for Migrant Rights
Portugal has been considered one of the best countries to secure migrant rights during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was the first country to grant temporary residence to migrants, a brave policy that contrasted with the authoritarian measures taken by countries such as Hungary.
The policy was considered to be so groundbreaking that several international human rights bodies, UN agencies, and activist groups from across the world urged other governments to follow in Portugal’s footsteps.
According to the Portuguese government, this policy was not a matter of ensuring there are enough migrant workers to satisfy economic targets (the basis for similar proposed policies in Spain and Italy), but rather a crucial measure of solidarity and public health.
Basically, Portugal recognized the humanity of migrants with irregular status, most of which pay taxes even though they are not entitled to their respective benefits (e.g. they cannot access unemployment subsidies).
Many of these migrants were stuck in limbo for years, waiting for a positive response by the Foreigners and Border Service (SEF), which has a huge backlog of cases caused mainly by increased migration to Portugal due to Brazil’s political situation and Brexit, as well an increased presence of South-Asian permanent and seasonal workers.
But what does this policy mean for migrants in Portugal? And what is left to be done?
Migrants are treated as citizens—for a while
All migrants who had already applied for residency had their requests temporarily granted. This means they were entitled to social assistance and health care access like any other Portuguese citizen, even though their cases had not technically been “accepted” yet. Migrants whose residency documents expired during the lockdown would also have them automatically renewed until June 30, 2020.
This policy was complimented in international media as a quick and effective way to ensure migrants were treated as Portuguese citizens. But the process is not so clear-cut – migrants must still present proof that they applied for residency. This bureaucracy worried activists for migrant rights because most SEF and social security offices are closed and many migrants do not have access to computers.
Although this measure was obviously a relief to thousands of migrants, it also left out a big portion of people. Mainly, those who had not been able to apply for residency yet and those who applied for residency after the lockdown. Therefore, there are still many migrants in Portugal who are treated as second-class citizens. However, during the pandemic, migrants in that situation were at least granted access to the national health service, which is not usually the case.
Once SEF offices re-open, supposedly on July 1st, migrants will have to go through the normal procedures to ensure the residency permits are not temporary. So, even though this policy is certainly protective of migrant rights during the pandemic, it will not delete the backlog of cases being currently examined by SEF.
For many, this means that after enjoying a short break as citizens, they will go back to being “citizens-on-hold”, paying taxes without enjoying the same rights and benefits.
What’s left to be done?
For migrant rights associations, the government policy was clearly a step in the right direction – but a timid one. Activists wonder why migrants why the policy is only temporary, given the huge delays by SEF due to limited staff and resources responsible for tackling an enormous backlog of cases.
Activists also found disingenuous the need for bureaucratic procedures to implement the policy. After all, why should migrants provide proof of their residency applications? Shouldn’t the State already have the necessary information to provide those temporary residency permits?
There were also concerns about the ambiguity of the law which ensured this temporary legalization of migrants. Although it stated migrants would be able to access the same social assistance, it did not specify whether migrants would be provided with social housing or unemployment subsidies.
Since the policy was first enacted, there are still no reports about its implementation (at least, no reports available in the media). So it’s difficult to evaluate whether it made a huge or only a marginal difference in the lives of migrants in Portugal.
At the same time, the pandemic uncovered the appalling conditions of overcrowding in hostels for asylum-seekers in Portugal, which led to the evacuation of 138 asylum-seekers. Furthermore, when the lockdown began, the murder of a Ukrainian national by SEF officials in the Lisbon airport detention center was uncovered. These reports, which did not receive as much international coverage as Portugal’s policy for migrant rights, stifled national praise for the government’s protection of migrant rights.
For Portuguese activists, it’s clear that there is still a long road ahead before migrant rights are respected in the country. Housing and work conditions are far from ideal, and cases of human trafficking and exploitation have been discovered in the Portuguese South involving seasonal migrant workers from South Asia.
Furthermore, Portugal is still coming to terms with its colonial past and traditional narratives that place Portuguese of African descent as less civilized than other Portuguese people.
Still, considering how so many countries across the globe took advantage of the pandemic to attack migrant rights, there is no question that Portugal has led the way to ensure COVID-19 is an opportunity to stand up for human rights and not trample them.
The way forward should be to pursue even more ambitious and ground-breaking policies, including changing laws for citizenship and nationality, that in Portugal are mostly based on jus sanguinis rather than jus soli, with significant implications for the children of migrants residing in Portugal.
Although migrants play an essential role in the Portuguese economy, and although Portuguese people have a history of migration themselves, the xenophobic wave of hate that has spread in Europe has not left Portugal completely intact. Portugal now has the chance to fight against populism with effective policies that benefit everyone living and working in Portugal.
India’s Opposition Leader Rahul Gandhi Disqualified
An Indian court last week convicted India’s opposition leader Raul Gandhi in a criminal defamation case. The court awarded him a two-year jail term over his “why all thieves have Modi surname” comment. Further, Gandhi was disqualified from the parliament, a day after the court verdict. Subsequently, the government asked to vacate the government-allotted residence. Even though the court gave him a 30-day period to appeal against the conviction, Gandhi is yet to appeal against the verdict.
Modi Surname Remark
Gandhi made the “Modi” comment in an election rally in Kolar just before the 2019 General Elections. Talking about the corruption and frauds done by some people with the Modi surname, he had said, “one small question, how are the names of all these thieves ‘Modi, Modi, Modi’… Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, Narendra Modi, and if you search a little more, aur bahut saare Modi niklenge (many more Modis will emerge).” A BJP leader in the state of Gujarat with a Modi surname had filed a criminal defamation case against Gandhi after he alleged that it hurt the sentiments of lakhs of people with the Modi surname.
After the court verdict came, the Modi-led government reacted quickly by disqualifying Gandhi. The government disqualified Gandhi under the law which states that a Member of Parliament sentenced to not less than two years shall be disqualified from the parliament.
Also Read: BBC’s Modi Documentary Rattles Modi Government
Gandhi’s Opposition to the Law that Would Have Protected Him
The court gave Rahul Gandhi 30 days to appeal against the conviction. If the court stays the conviction, he will be reinstated as a Member of Parliament (MP). Before July 2013, MPs convicted under this law were able to retain their seat until they had exhausted all the judicial remedies. However, on 10 July 2013, the Supreme Court of India negated this position. Rahul Gandhi’s Congress Party, which was in power in 2013, had initiated an amendment to this law to circumvent the Supreme Court judgement. Rahul Gandhi had opposed the amendment and publicly assailed his party and the prime minister for protecting corrupt political allies. It was his opposition and criticism that led the government to repeal the ordinance.
Also Read: Why BJP is Fascist Despite Contesting Elections.?
Questions over the Timing of the Verdict
The court verdict convicting Rahul Gandhi came at a time when Gandhi had led concerted attacks against the government on the issue of the Adani Group. Gandhi has accused Modi of protecting and shielding the Indian business conglomerate Adani Group. Adani Group was accused of fraud by US short-seller Hindenburg Research which termed it the “largest con in corporate history”. Subsequently, Adani Group’s shares tumbled. Gautam Adani, Adani’s Group’s Chairman lost more than 80 billion USD and fell from the world’s third richest person to the world’s 26th richest person (as of today).
Adani’s rise is closely linked to the rise of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Adani comes from the state of Gujarat where Modi served as a Chief Minister for almost 15 years. Adani Group is involved in infrastructure, airports, ports, coal and cement among many other sectors. India’s opposition party has alleged that the Modi government is tweaking India’s foreign policy to serve Adani’s interests. They substantiate it with the evidence that Adani visited various countries and bagged contracts in those countries just after Modi’s visit to these countries.
Even though the allegations against Adani Group are serious in nature, the government has hardly taken any action to investigate these frauds. Congress has raised many questions on the row and persists with its demand to set up a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe the charges against the Adani Group. Rahul Gandhi was leading the opposition criticism of the government. Even after the disqualification, Gandhi said, he will still ask these questions against the government.
Also Read: Why Is Indian PM Modi’s Silent About Attacks Against Muslims?
Indian Democracy under Threat
The farcical disqualification of Rahul Gandhi has raised serious questions about the current regime in India. The disqualification has signalled that the Modi-led government will not tolerate any kind of opposition. The aim of the disqualification is to strike fear in the hearts of opposition leaders and other groups that oppose the policies of the Modi government.
It is not just Rahul Gandhi but the Modi government that has targeted activists, students, human rights defenders, civil society, research institutions, universities, businesses, judges and all political leaders that publicly oppose his policies. Most of the politicians belonging to opposition parties today have corruption cases lodged against them. Central agencies like the Enforcement Directorate and Central Bureau of India that work directly under Modi’s orders are daily summoning opposition politicians these days for questioning in different cases. Interestingly, politicians from opposition parties who had cases registered against them but later defected to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and had their cases withdrawn against them.
These are challenging times for India and India’s democracy. The way the Modi government is acting, it will be safe to say that India today is under a tyrannical government. Since General Elections in India will be held next year, it is possible that the Modi government may not be ready for a peaceful transfer of power. Further, the freedom of opposition parties to contest elections freely is also under threat. Therefore, the next elections will determine what way India goes.
Huwara rampage: a prova for a possible Israeli Holocaust.
On 26 February, hundreds of heavily armed Jewish settlers protected by the Israeli army, rampaged through the Palestinian village of Huwara, just south of the northern West Bank town of Nablus, ransacking and torching homes and property and killing at least one local resident. According to the Palestinian health ministry, hundreds of people were injured, with many sustaining serious and crippling wounds that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. The rampage in Huwara has been described as the most violent since Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967.
According to various sources, the settlers had received definitive instructions from government officials telling them “to teach the Palestinians a lesson they wouldn’t forget.”
The settlers, affiliated with the religious Zionist movement, are indoctrinated in a Nazi-like Talmudic ideology which considers the targeting of innocent noncombatants such as children, women and the elderly as perfectly legitimate during the time of conflict.
The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has accused the Israeli government, the most racist and fascist ever, of backing a rampage in Huwara. Israeli Minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich was quoted as saying that Huwara needs to be “wiped out and razed to the ground” and that the state of Israel should do it.
Israeli Prime Minister told foreign journalists that Smotrich couldn’t use PR-friendly language to communicate his message, prompting one Israeli journalist to remark that “Netanyahu seemed to be acting as PR officer for Smotrich.”
When this and other writers employed Nazi epithets to describe current Israeli policies and behaviours in the Occupied Palestinian territories, some people, especially Western intellectuals, thought we were exaggerating the level of Israel’s genocidal Jewish barbarianism.
However an honest look at the perpetrators of the Huwara rampage reveals that these people are far from being a small or marginal extremist group, not representing the mainstream Israeli Jewish society.
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In fact, these are the very people who rule Israel today. They are the people of the government. They represent the crème de le crème of the Zionist religious movement in Israel.
Hence, we are not talking here about some wild weed growing uncontrollably in the midst of an otherwise sane society or anything of this sort.
Our erstwhile critics who didn’t like the use of strong epithets to describe Israel, mainly for psychological reasons, would probably pay more attention to the purported half-full glass rather than the half-empty one.
But in all honesty, there is simply no half-full glass in Israel today. Some naïve observers here and there might still think that the international community wouldn’t allow Israel to cross the Rubicon.
Unfortunately, It has now been proven that neither Israel could be given the benefit of the doubt nor could the so-called international community be entrusted to prevent or even restrain the increasingly brazenly Nazi entity from doing the unthinkable, namely launching a partial or full genocide against the unprotected Palestinians.
Indeed, the feeble American and European reactions to the Jewish rampage at the village of Huwara proved that the US can not be relied upon to rein in or restrain Jewish Nazism in Palestine.
The US, after all, is the very country that enabled Israel to be what it is and reach this evil level of barbarianism and arrogance of power by funding, defending and constantly optimizing Israeli Nazism.
Hence, relying on Washington to rein in genocidal Israel is merely a futile exercise in naivety, day-dreaming and wishful thinking.
Besides, All that America can offer to force Israel to behave doesn’t really go beyond futile gentle preaching stressing the need to exercise self-restraint and not indulge in incitement and extremism.
But Israel is not restrained by gentle preaching and polite rebuking or even harsh verbal chastisement. Such a toothless discourse will have no effect whatsoever on a shameless violator of international law, but could actually further embolden the Zionist entity even further.
What Israel needs is a thorough de-Nazification which would convince the racist supremacists in occupied Palestine that the recurrent rampages and genocidal savagery against the Palestinian people would have serious consequences on the Israel state.
Huwara rampage : Prova for a real Holucaust?
As someone who is quite familiar with the religious Zionist mindset, I can safely argue that the rampage at Huwara, which represents the cumulative outcome of years of toxic incitement by the Talmudic schools, such as the Merkaz Ha-Rav in West Jerusalem (the CNS of religious Zionism in Israel) is just a mere prova for something to come that is much more ominous, much more and much more genocidal.
Indeed, if these genocidal thugs and killer beasts could do this shamelessly in front of TV cameras from all over the world, just imagine how they would behave and what they would do to their helpless victims if the area were to be declared a close military Zone and all journalists and cameramen were ordered to leave.
I am saying this because I am completely convinced that the concept of genocide is absolutely and completely compatible with the religious teaching and ideological indoctrination of these people who apparently were spoon-fed this poison since their kindergarten days.
As a journalist who has been covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, especially the settler phenomenon, ever since I graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1981, I can honestly argue with all honesty and rectitude, that these people represent the Nazis of our time.
I am not eager to put any people down, and I’m absolutely and totally against all forms of anti-Semitism.
But we must call the spade a spade, irrespective of whether we see the proverbial implement in the hands of Da’esh killers, Jewish settlers in Huwara or Vagner mercenaries in Ukraine. If we don’t wake up, if the world doesn’t wake up now, especially after what we saw in Huwara, when will we wake up?
The Huwara rampage is more than just writing on the wall. It is more than a dark cloud hanging over the West Bank. The rampage in Huwarra is actually the penultimate step, the sound alarm coming before a real genocide that could be carried out at any moment by these reptile murderers, protected and assisted by the Israeli army.
Enter the Palestinian Authority
As to Palestinians, they must not allow themselves to be beguiled or sedated by worthless statements coming from the American state department.
The neo-Nazi trio of Netanyahu, Ben-Gvir and Smotrich will not give a hoot to worthless statements coming from worthless people in Washington.
In September 1982, the Reagan administration gave solemn assurances to the PLO that no Palestinian refugees in the Beirut region would be harmed if PLO forces left Beirut.
However, when the PLO left, as part of an agreement mediated by the American envoy Phillip Habib, Israel’s Christian allies, the Phallangists, ganged up on the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps, south of Beirut, ransacking the two camps and slaughtering more than 3500 innocent men, women and children. Not a single perpetrator was prosecuted or punished for the genocidal massacre.
The Palestinians must not commit the same criminal blunder again, by trusting the US to protect our unarmed civilians from the Nazis of our time.
We need something much more concrete, much more reliable and much more certain. After all, it is our children’s lives at stake! Today, they set homes on fire while children and babies inside.
Tomorrow they will build a huge crematorium to burn our kids in broad daylight while a US State Department would regurgitate the same stale statements about Israel having the right to defend itself!
In Palestine, no peace before the slate is clean
It seems that peace in Palestine will remain confined to the realm of wishful thinking. For the vast majority of people around the world, the racist apartheid entity known as Israel is probably the most gargantuan crime against humanity ever committed in the history of mankind.
Israel was conceived in sin, misbegotten in evil when it was established nearly 75 years ago, remains completely evil today, and will always be irremediably evil, no matter how many people sing its praises.
The creation of Israel in Palestine may not be the most heinous genocidal act in history. But it is most certainly the biggest and most obscene theft ever. How else can any honest person describe the arrogation of an entire country by the British empire and surrendering it, as a (National home), on a silver platter to another people ( Zionist Jews) on the ground that these people were stateless and persecuted, especially following the tragic events of the World War II.
Indelible calamity for Palestinians
Indeed, the very creation of Israel and its malignant growth into a powerful evil entity has inflicted a huge indelible calamity to every Palestinian family.
Yes, thanks to Zionism’s triumph, thanks to overwhelming, unlimited and sustained backing by racist, anti-Islam Western powers such as UK and US, every Palestinian family had its share of the still ongoing agony, immense suffering and misery resulting from the establishment of the evil entity, which is nothing less than a protracted, unrelenting and unceasing crime against humanity.
It is probably impossible to find a single Palestinian who has escaped the impact of the Zionist Jewish crimes, still, continues unabated.
Israel: When will the Jews say Mea Culpa?
This writer’s family, for example, was forced to dwell in a cave for 20 years, following the near extermination of my father’s family in 1953. In that fateful year, Jewish terrorists massacred his three paternal uncles, Hussein, Mahmoud and Yousef not far from the village of, al-Burj, about 30 km southwest of the town of Hebron.
The three, along with other relatives, were totally innocent shepherds, grazing their folks of sheep near the armistice line. In addition to murdering my family, the Zionist murderers stole hundreds of sheep upon which our family depended on for living.
Read Also: Expect a Srebrenica-like massacre anytime by Jewish Settlers in the West Bank
Interestingly, up to this day, Israel, the so-called only democracy in the Middle East, has not said “Mea Culpa“! let alone paid compensations for their crimes When will the Zionist Jews say a simple sorry for their unwept victims? Perhaps when kosher pigs fly!
Yes, every single Palestinian has a story to tell about what happened to his or her immediate family, relatives, neighbours and fellow villagers.
The Zionists, notoriously selfish and narcissistic, calculated that old Palestinians who experienced the holocaust-like Nakba first-hand ( the brutal, violent extirpation of an entire people from its ancestral homeland does constitute a form of genocide), would die and the young would forget.
However, the Zionist calculations proved utterly faulty as the cause has been kept alive and living, strongly and firmly, in the hearts and minds of millions of people around the world, including in Palestine itself where close to eight million Palestinians continue to live as a thorn in the Zionists’ side despite all their nefarious designs, plots and exploits to consign our just cause to oblivion.
There are several reasons for this exemplary resilience and steadfastness on the part of the Palestinian people, including the following:
1-The colossal Nakba, was by no means a one-time event lasting for a few weeks or a few months, followed by peace or an end of hostility. The Palestinians actually never encountered circumstances or conditions conducive to making them or their descendants forget or overcome their pains. Indeed, ever since 1948, the collective Palestinian experience has been a sequence of atrocities, pogroms, repressive measures, mass internment and imprisonment, home -demolitions, land-grabbing, sporadic massacres, and similar acts of persecution and oppression. This would draw a conclusion that peace in Palestine belongs to the realm of fantasy.
The main purpose of these evil measures has always been to force the Palestinians, or significant numbers of them, to leave their homeland for good. Indeed, in many instances, the Zionist authorities offered attractive sums of money to “encourage” Palestinians to emigrate to countries such as Australia and Canada. However, very few Palestinians would swallow the Zionist bait.
The unrelenting suffering and the protracted oppression and savagery kept alight the torch of resistance even to this day as most Palestinians came to realize that they were facing two main alternatives: continued resistance even at a high price, or going into oblivion and repeating the experiment of the “American Indians” of the Middle East.
2-The second reason which enabled the Palestinians to keep their struggle alive is their strong Islamic faith. Islam encourages its followers to resist oppression and not succumb or give in to oppressors. True, Palestinian nationalism played and continues to play an important role in sustaining the resistance. However, it is amply clear that Islam is more able to provide an inexhaustible source of motivations for the increasingly religious showdown with Israel. More to the point, Palestinians feel they have a paramount religious duty to protect, defend, and liberate al-Aqsa Mosque from the claws of Zionism. Indeed, most Palestinians realize there can be no Palestine without Jerusalem and no Jerusalem without the Aqsa Mosque. Hence, their resolve to sacrifice body and soul for the liberation of Islam’s third holiest sanctuary.
No Peace without Justice, but Justice is more than impossible
Since there can be no lasting peace in Palestine without true justice that leaves the slate thoroughly clean, it would be safe to argue that reaching a genuine peace between Muslims and Zionist Jews would be as unlikely as Satan the devil entering the Garden of Eden in the company of prophets, saints, martyrs and righteous people on the Day of Judgment.
But since Satan will go to hell rather than paradise, peace in Palestine will remain confined to the realm of wishful thinking.
And even if Zionist Jews were to reach the conclusion that enough was enough, they still would have to agree to a system of redress for the egregious injustices inflicted on their victims from the very inception of the gargantuan crime against humanity.
For justice, even a semblance of justice to materialize, the Jews of the world would have to pay the Palestinians adequate and prompt reparations for the purpose of promoting justice and redressing the horrible and still ongoing crimes against the victims and their descendants up to the 10th generation. I cannot determine the exact amount of reparations and indemnification which Jews would have to pay for the victims. But an initial amount of 30-50 trillion dollars would probably suffice for a final rapprochement. Am I undergoing day-dreaming. Definitely. That is why even invoking the possibility of a real durable peace between Palestine and Israel belongs to the realm of fantasy and wishful thinking. (end)
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