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Roma in Portugal

RomaTravellers Team VisualID1 ENThe Roma in Portugal, known in spoken Portuguese as ciganos, are a minority ethnic group. Exact numbers in the country are unknown—estimates vary from 30,000 to 50,000.

As implied by some of their most common local names, the native Portuguese Roma belong to the Iberian Kale (Kalos) group, like most of the fellow Lusophone Brazilian ciganos, and the Spanish Romani people, known as gitanos, that share their same ethnic group. Their presence in the country in and around Minho goes back to the second half of the 15th century when they crossed the border from neighbouring Spain. Early on, due to their sociocultural differences and nomadic lifestyle, the ciganos were the object of fierce discrimination and persecution.

The number of Roma in Portugal is difficult to estimate, since it is forbidden to collect statistics about race or ethnic categories in the country. According to data from Council of Europe‘s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance there are about 40,000 to 50,000 spread all over the country. According to the Portuguese branch of Amnesty International, there are about 30,000 to 50,000. The national High Commissioner for Migrations places the number at around 37,000.

History

The first Roma arrived in Portugal in the late 15th century. The presence of Roma in Portugal in the early 16th century is confirmed by the title of a play by Gil Vicente from 1521, Act of the Gypsies (O Auto das Ciganas). Starting with King John III in 1526 and throughout the centuries, numerous discriminatory laws  were aimed at the Roma, who were only recognised as regular citizens in 1822, after the Liberal Revolution of 1820.

A latter wave of Romani migration in the late 19th century entered through the northern border. After the first Roma arrived in Portugal in the turn of the 15th to the 16th century and over the following centuries there were several laws passed marginalizing the ciganos. From the early 16th century until the early 19th century, they were forbidden from entering and expelled from the country, forced into exile in the colonies, used as forced labour in the sailing ships and forbidden from using their language and traditional attire and from performing fortune telling. Such strictures and compulsions were introduced by the monarchs. Only with the Liberal Constitution of 1822 were the Romani recognised as Portuguese citizens.

From 1920 to 1985, a statute of the Portuguese gendarmerie (Guarda Nacional Republicana) determined that this military force should carry out special monitoring of the Roma communities. The 1920 Regulation on the Rural Services of the Gendarmerie read «[t]he Gendarmerie staff will carry out strict surveillance on the gypsies, constantly monitoring their movements in order to prevent and punish their frequent acts of looting» (Article 182). In 1980, the Council of the Revolution, following an opinion from its Constitutional Commission arguing the same, declared Articles 182 and 183 of that Regulation unconstitutional for violating the principle of equality.

The later 1985 Regulation on the Services of the Gendarmerie, in a section entitled «Surveillance on nomads, beggars, tramps and prostitutes» (Section XVII), prescribed «special surveillance on groups and caravans of people who usually wander from land to land doing commerce, taking part in fairs or carrying out any other activities proper of a peripatetic lifestyle» and the monitoring of «their movements in order to prevent and punish any criminal acts» (Article 81), a veiled reference to Romani as «nomads» in a passage that closely resembled that of the previous regulation. In a judicial review in 1989, the Constitutional Court declared unconstitutional part of the section where it allowed the officers to perform searches without warrants in the caravans, but not the ethnically discriminatory surveillance measures, although Judges Vital Moreira, Magalhães Godinho and Nunes de Almeida co-signed a dissenting opinion, asserting that the norm meant to discriminate Roma communities and was unconstitutional in its entirety for violating the principle of equality.

Only in 2010 did the Government pass a new regulation overriding the 1985 one, removing all explicit or implicit mentions of specific ethnicities.

 

Integration programmes

In the last decades, a few governmental programmes to promote Roma integration were launched.  In 1996, a Working Group for the Equality and Inclusion of Gypsies was created within the High Commission for Migrations and Ethnic Minorities, publishing a report shortly afterwards. In 2013, the Government passed the National Strategy for the Integration of the Romani Communities, creating a Consultative Group for the Integration of the Gypsy Communities, renamed Consultative Council in 2018.

In 2013 the High commission for Immigration and Intercultural Dialogue published: National strategy for the Integration of Roma Communities, in 2019 it was published a guide for schools: Promote inclusion and educational success of Roma communities

Education

91,3% have not completed the 3rd cycle of basic education.

Roma in São João da Talha

The establishment of Roma in São João da Talha began in 1971 with the installation of the large family of Romões and Ciclones in shacks made of wood, tin and plastic, on land a little above the road N10. In the area,  there are today two sets of social housing, inhabited solely by Roma. It is considered to be the largest agglomeration of its kind in the municipality of Loures. They live in social housing near the high school; most do not work and live on subsidies.

Roma in AE S. João da Talha

They attend primary and secondary school but most of them usually don’t go to classes. Some have behaviour problems, aggression towards students and lack of respect towards employees and teachers. They abandon their studies early: 7th grade, because they get married, have children and drop out of school. Two thirds of Roma are married before the age of 19 and 16% do so between the ages of 12 and 14.

Number of Roman students (2020/2021):

Basic education

  • First cycle – grades one to four: 33
  • Second cycle – grades five and six: 30
  • Third cycle – grades seven to nine: 6

Upper secondary education

  • grades ten, eleven and twelve: 0
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