25 October 2017

Violence temporarily closes Portuguese embassy in Dili

!WARNING MACHINE TRANSLATION! OF ORIGINAL PORTUGUESE TEXT 24.10.2017 07:45 A group of young people attempted to force entry into the Portuguese embassy in Dili for alleged dissatisfaction with the delay in processing their applications for nationality and forced the diplomatic mission to close in Timor-Leste's capital.

A diplomatic source told Lusa last week that a group of young people had tried to force their entry into the embassy and that in recent days they had circulated messages on social networks against the diplomatic mission.

"There were groups trying to encourage others so that during the hours of service they did something. We informed the Timorese authorities of the situation," the source said.

"People have to understand that with disrespects, kicks, shouts and insults they do not get anything and that the embassy is closed so that they perceive that possible offenders are punishing and harming the care of all other people," he said. He also explained that there were "complicated and serious cases last week," that employees "are trying their best," and that "there are no ideal solutions, so everyone has to have some understanding."

The tension surrounding the embassy is due to the high volume of requests for Portuguese nationality, something that is accessible to any Timorese born until May 19, 2002, the eve of Timor-Leste's restoration of independence.

The nationality law considers that until that date and because Timor-Leste was a non-self-governing territory under Portuguese administration, all Timorese citizens born until then can apply for nationality.

On average, the embassy receives about 60 requests for citizenship every day, with long lines of people lining up daily at the embassy door, which changed this month to new facilities.

In addition to the volume itself, the processes become more complicated because in many cases they only present parish documents or inadequate birth registration evidence and have increased cases of fraud.

In the past, many of the cases were sent to the Central Registry Office in Lisbon and, in case of doubt, they were returned to Timor-Leste for verification, implying in practice that a consular official would go to the parish concerned to prove birth registration.

About a year ago, the embassy changed the procedures and now performs the verification of all requests in Timor-Leste, before even the processes are sent to Lisbon, thus seeking to minimize the possibility of rejection and consequent additional delays.

Much of the documentation and official records were destroyed in the violence of September 1999 after the independence referendum, and parishes are in most cases the sole source of registration.

Until recently, however, only the diocese of Baucau allowed the verification of the books of baptismal records, with the other two of the country, Maliana and Dili, only recently "to authorize this consultation, according to a consular source.

With a small number of staff, the checks make the embassy still have fewer people available to handle the documents since they have to physically go to areas of the country that are often more remote or difficult to reach.

"The volume is huge and people are informed right from the start when the process begins, that we can not in any way determine a deadline for the verification to be carried out," he said.

"It is not easy to carry this out especially since it is only very recently that the dioceses of Dili and Maliana have authorized the embassy to consult the books," he explained.

The vast majority of East Timorese claiming citizenship do not even go to Portugal, using the Portuguese passport only as a 'ticket' to access jobs elsewhere in Europe, especially Ireland and the United Kingdom. Many, through friends already in those countries, contracts or at least promises of work even before they have obtained nationality so that before the delay become "more aggressive."

"There are 60 requests for citizenship per day, which means 60 requests for verification per day. People can not think this is done overnight," the embassy source said. "But this behavior is not acceptable. Do not insult yourself and attack employees, do not stop the official from closing the gate and do not start filming inside the embassy," he said.

With Lusa

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