Wednesday, April 16, 2014

No wasted food, no hunger, no cost

Hunger in Portugal is widespread, mostly far from obvious, sometimes cloaked in shame.
Among those taking concerted action against hunger is an American with a dynamic project he is developing throughout Lisbon and spreading to urban areas in other regions of the country.   
Hunter Halder, 62, originally from a village near Richmond, Virginia, is the brains behind the so-called Re-Food programme designed to help end both hunger and food waste.  
Launched in Lisbon 2011, it so far involves 750 volunteers collecting and repackaging food from more than 300 outlets and distributing it daily to about 850 beneficiaries.
Almost all of Lisbon’s 24 parishes now have a Re-Food team, either already in action or being formed, says Halder. He has introduced the system to Oporto and just last weekend he ‘seeded’ the idea  at two well-attended meetings in the Algarve. While targeting other cities on the mainland, he also hopes to set up teams in the Azores and Madeira.
The scheme is intended to complement the work of the Portuguese federation of food banks and private charities running soup kitchens. They have been working together in Lisbon, helping each other where they can, even though Re-Food operates in a somewhat different way. 
“What Re-Food brings to the table,” Halder explained, “is an abundance of excellent, ready-to-eat food every day at no, or almost no, cost.
“This is a very big deal because reducing food insufficiency is only possible if massive amounts of food at practically no cost can be obtained daily.
“We target every single scrap of excess prepared food within our neighbourhoods by going to every café, restaurant and grocery store every day they are open.
“We raise a team of hundreds of local volunteers - walking, riding bikes and using cars when necessary - to harvest 100% of the previously wasted food, every day, rain or shine. 
“We deliver that food to people who are not being served by existing institutions, be they homeless, jobless or in any other condition that leaves them without the means to secure the food they need.
“We go door to door to find and serve those who are ashamed of their need and who, therefore, are practically invisible.”
The project is totally non-profit-making and no one connected with it is paid anything.  
“We want everyone who ever serves or donates to this project to know that 100% of their effort, goodwill or resources will be applied exclusively to expand the benefits of our work,” says Halder.
Although he describes the project as being still in the early stages of development, he is optimistic that Lisbon can become the first city in the world with virtually no food waste and no hunger. He foresees no limit to the Re-Food model and believes it can go national, even global.
Using four basic criteria - reducing unnecessary food waste, reducing food insufficiency, strengthening community ties and replication – he is happy to share the Re-Food model with anyone keen to implement it.
The charismatic Hunter Halder has lived in Lisbon for 23 years. His first visit was during a pilgrimage to Fátima in 1988. He married a Portuguese tour guide with whom he had a son. It was his son Christopher, now 24, who came up with the name Re-Food and co-founded the project with his father.
Before that, Hunter’s two young daughters from his second marriage frequently commented about wastage in restaurants and this inspired him to do something about it. His daughters, Mayara, 22, and Raissa, 19, are now both involved in Re-Food.   
Halder’s sights are set high, but because of his organisational and operational skills he remains pragmatic.
“It is, of course, impossible to end all food waste,” he conceded, giving as an example the top of the onion you cut off and throw away when making a salad.
“But it is possible to end the trashing of enormous amounts of perfectly good food. The Re-Food model can achieve this because of the power of community mobilisation and the fact that we work at the local community level.
“With respect to ending hunger in Lisbon or anywhere else, a dose of humility and reality is in order. We have always had hunger with us and it will not go quietly away. That said, it is also true that the public and private institutions, as well as businesses and citizens, have worked, and are working, to alleviate hunger. All of these efforts are needed.
 “Our strategic trajectory has always been to complete our work on the micro local level,  replicate throughout the city of Lisbon and then throughout all cities.
“But reality does not follow strategic models. We began replicating throughout Lisbon and beyond long before completing the full implementation in the original parish.
“Similarly, we began replicating in other cities long before Lisbon has been fully implanted. We expect to be replicating internationally long before completing our national work.
“We have to try to build the capacity to respond to all who want to replicate. The project is universal and we intend to make it universally available,” said Halder.
So far, the project has encountered remarkably few difficulties. The biggest was taking the initial decision in March 2011. Since then it has been easy-going, except for the work involved, of course.  
“The food is there for the taking. The volunteers are hungry to help. The community has all of the resources needed. But the true driver is that people want to bring these benefits to their own neighbourhoods.” 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Saying sorry for centuries of slavery

Portugal faces a controversial set of demands to make amends for the centuries-old transatlantic slave trade.
The 15 member states of the Caribbean Community common market organisation CARICOM, have unanimously approved an action plan seeking reparations from Portugal and several other European countries.
Portugal pioneered the trade in Africans slaves in the Atlantic region. For two hundred years - in the 15th and 16th centuries - Portugal had a monopoly. It was also the last European country to abolish slavery. It did not do so until the late 19th century, by which time it had transported more than five million slaves across the Atlantic, far more than any other country.
    Estimates vary, but it is thought that Europeans forcibly moved at least 12.5 million African slaves to the New World, mainly to toil in colonial plantations and mines. The multi-national trade reaped huge profits throughout the 17th century, and peaked towards the end of the 18th when 100,000 slaves a year were being transported.
The destination for most of Portugal’s human trafficking was Brazil. Portugal also helped supply slave labour to Spain’s American empire. It was less directly involved in trade with the islands of the Caribbean administered by the British, French, Dutch and Scandinavian colonialists.
The wealth accrued from slave labour was vast. It helped finance Britain’s Industrial Revolution. With their sugar plantations, the British West Indies were among Britain’s most valuable colonies.
Ships sailing the triangular route from Europe to West Africa, across to the New World and then back home, were always heavily laden. The central ‘cargoes’ were people shackled in chains.
Such were the horrific conditions on board ships making the so-called ‘middle passage’ westward, that an estimated one in seven slaves died of disease or malnutrition before making landfall.
The action plan approved by the CARICOM Reparations Commission meeting in St Vincent highlights ten points, “to achieve reparatory justice for the victims of genocide, slavery, slave trading, and racial apartheid.” 
Top of the list of demands is a “full, formal apology.”
The chairman of the commission, Sir Hilary Beckles, said: “Reparations for slavery, and the century of racial apartheid that replaced it into the 1950s, resonate as a popular right today in Caribbean communities because of the persistent harm and suffering linked to the crimes against humanity under colonialism.”
Martyn Day, a lawyer who is advising the commission, said:  “This is a very comprehensive and fair set of demands on the governments whose countries grew rich at the expense of those regions whose human wealth was stolen from them.”
So far, the plan has attracted little international attention – certainly nothing to compare with the publicity bestowed on the Oscar-winning film 12 Years a Slave.
If the Europeans decline to negotiate, which seems likely, a long-drawn out process in the UN International Court of Justice may be the only option open to the Caribbean Community.
The commission insists its main objective is not to exact huge sums from European taxpayers. And it is not looking to be compensated for slavery itself, but rather slavery’s lasting legacy. 
Referring to one of its 10 demands - ‘Debt Cancellation’ – the commission says: “Caribbean governments that emerged from slavery and colonialism have inherited the massive crisis of community poverty and institutional unpreparedness for development. These governments still daily engage in the business of cleaning up the colonial mess in order to prepare for development.”
Other demands focus on cultural, educational, psychological and public health issues, and also on a repatriation program for descendants who wish to resettle back in their ancestors’ countries of origin.
At first glance, the apology demand would seem to be the easiest to satisfy. Some governments have already issued ‘statements of regret’ rather than full apologies, but in the commission’s view these are unacceptable because they “represent a refusal to take responsibility for the crimes committed.”
Cash-strapped European nations such as Portugal will fear that making full apologies and paying reparations would set a precedent under which they could be expected to compensate all of the nations they exploited in colonial times.
In other words, saying sorry could open up an expensive Pandora’s Box of wrongdoings in bygone empires.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Madeleine case in a right old muddle

News of the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann seems to be going round in circles. ‘Revelations’ turn out to be old stories recycled. ‘Key suspects’ come and go and are then brought back again. ‘New leads’ seem to be leading nowhere.  
The Mirror yesterday (March 25) declared: “Mirror investigation reveals that sicko David Reid was hiding in the Algarve at the time Madeleine McCann was taken from Praia da Luz.” The Daily Mail followed with much the same story.
Far from this being news, Reid’s criminal record and presence in the Algarve village of Carvoeiro was written about by the News of the World in 2006. Similar reports appeared in newspapers in Portugal in May 2008.  
A popular musician and well-known locally as ‘Irish Dave’, Reid admitted he had served 18 months of a three-year sentence for indecent assault and gross indecency, as a result of complaints from his own children.  
But he insisted he was not a paedophile and told reporters in 2008 he was “glad the skeletons are out of the closet.” He hoped people would let him “live in peace.”  
Of course he was not counting on a ‘revelation’ as a result of a Mirror ‘investigation’ six years on.
The gist of the latest statement from the Met police in London on their investigation also sounded remarkably similar to what has long been in the public domain, but the so-called ‘quality’ press, along with the tabloids, churned it out as if it were not only a hot new lead, but even “a breakthrough.”
The Met statement appealed for further information on “a potential linked series of twelve crimes which occurred between 2004 and 2010, mostly in low season, whereby a male intruder has gained access to mainly holiday villas occupied by UK families on holiday in the Western Algarve.”
In four of the cases, the intruder is alleged to have sexually assaulted five white girls, aged between seven and ten years, in their beds.
Senior ex-police officers, led by former detective inspector Dave Edgar and hired by parents Kate and Gerry, looked into sexual attacks on at least five English girls between 2004 and 2007. Their findings were described in some detail by the News of the World in May 2009.
Kate McCann also wrote about the assaults in her book published in May 2012: “One of the most concerning and upsetting pieces of information to emerge quite early was the record of sexual crimes against children in the Algarve. This discovery made me feel physically sick. I read of five cases of British children on holiday being sexually abused in their beds while their parents slept in another room. In three further incidents, children encountered an intruder in their bedrooms, who was presumably disturbed before he had the chance to carry out an assault.”
Yet even The Times last week felt moved to report that “A sex attacker who preyed on young British girls holidaying with their families on the Algarve is a key suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann seven years ago, police said today.”
Other “key” suspects over the past few months have included Gypsies, British cleaners, bogus East European charity workers and two mystery German-speaking men, but according to the latest Met statement, witnesses described the supposedly lone sex attacker as “having dark (as in tanned) skin with short dark unkempt hair.”
The Met did not identify the latest “key” suspect, but a headline in the Guardian the day after the Met appeal read: “Madeleine McCann suspect died in 2009.”
It called this a “revelation” gleaned from “a source close to Portuguese investigators.”
We had read it all before, of course.
Early last November, the Daily Mail, among many other papers, named and carried a photograph of a 40-year-old black African, saying the Portuguese police believed he may have killed Madeleine two years before he died in a tractor accident.
 This disclosure came soon after all the BBC Crimewatch fuss over new e-fit images that turn out not be new at all, depicting a man who certainly did not look like a black African.
The Guardian’s source said the dead man had been at the centre of Portuguese police inquiries since they reopened the case last October, but they had not drawn any definite conclusions about him.
He “could” have been involved in the five assaults on white girls - and even the disappearance of Madeleine - but it was no more than a “possibility,” the source said.
The Guardian also ran a story last week headlined: “Madeleine McCann: a breakthrough that could be devastating.”
It did not mean devastating to the widow of the smeared African, a man with no record of child molestation and no opportunity to defend himself.
The Guardian explained that by identifying a series of sex attacks, the Met Police had made a breakthrough in its investigation, but that based on similar cases, “it could mean an end to hopes that Madeleine is alive.”
It is a hope many have long abandoned. Even Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood, the senior British investigating officer, has conceded she may have died in the apartment.
Portuguese detectives and prosecutors, as well as specialist British investigators and a British police dog handler, came to that conclusion years ago.
The former lead detective in the original Portugal investigation, Gonçalo Amaral, reiterated in a recent interview his firm belief that Madeleine died in the apartment the same day or night she disappeared.
As reported in the Algarve Resident, he claimed his investigation was marred by high-level political involvement, which left DNA samples untested and key witnesses overlooked.
Amaral and his many supporters completely reject the notion that Madeleine was abducted - and, indeed, there is no hard evidence to support the theory.
In using the term ‘abduction’ or ‘kidnapping’ of Madeleine McCann, the mainstream media rarely qualify this assertion with words such as ‘alleged,’ ‘possible’ or ‘suspected.’
Nor were such words used when Redwood said last week:  “The Metropolitan Police Service continues to offer a reward of up to £20,000 for information leading to the identification, arrest and prosecution of the person(s) responsible for the abduction of Madeleine McCann from Praia da Luz, Portugal on 3 May 2007.”
Twenty thousand pounds! It’s a far cry from the £2.5 million reward offered within days of Madeleine’s disappearance, and a drop in the ocean compared to the millions Kate and Gerry have since received in donations, on top of the amount the Met has spent so far in its fruitless search.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Lisbon reaction to Russian ‘landgrab’

The Ukrainian Ambassador to Lisbon and the non-governmental Association of Ukrainians in Portugal this week added their voices to the near universal condemnation of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine’s sovereign territory that has led to the spectre of war.
Prior to the fast-tracked treaty signed by Russia and Crimea on Tuesday, Ambassador Oleksandr Nykonento denounced Sunday’s referendum and said the vote in favour of Crimea re-joining Russia did not represent “the real will of the people” as it was conducted under “a foreign military presence.”
While acknowledging that Portugal “has already given support to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” the ambassador said he would like “this voice of support to be more consistent and more practical.”
He also indicated he was not happy with the response of the EU to the growing crisis in his country. He hoped for more solidarity from the international community, particularly the EU.
 It is understood that the Ukraine wants strong political support of its territorial integrity; urgent financial support to keep afloat its economy and social support system during a transitional period; long-term economic facilities to support structural reforms and integration into EU markets.
Portugal’s Foreign Minister Rui Machete said after a meeting in Brussels on Monday that the EU was fully behind Ukraine and that there should be no doubt as to its political and economic support.
Meanwhile, the sanctions proposed so far by both the EU and the US against what has been described as Russia’s ‘landgrab,’ have been widely dismissed by international commentators as “feeble” and “toothless.”
By contrast, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s speech in Moscow on Tuesday was unequivocal and defiant. Crimea, he declared, “always has been and always will be an inalienable part of Russia.”
During a debate in parliament in Lisbon two weeks ago Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho called for “for mediation and for moderation” in the way people express opinions on the crisis in Ukraine. “It’s an appeal we make to all our European partners, but also to all international institutions,” he said.
The Association of Ukrainians in Portugal, the biggest body representing the second largest immigrant community in this country, says it intends to continue holding what it calls ‘awareness-raising’ protest rallies outside the Russian Embassy in Lisbon until Russia withdraws its troops from Ukraine.
The association’s president, Pavlo Sadokha, has described Russia’s intervention in the Ukraine autonomous region of Crimea as “illegal and in breach of international law,” and likened it to Hitler’s annexation of Austria in 1938.
 “Ukraine is a multicultural state respectful of its minorities, and it should continue like that. In Crimea, unfortunately, the Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar minorities are subject to discrimination, especially in these days of occupation.”
Mr Sadokha added that Russia’s intervention was “a challenge for the stability in Europe and the world. It is a matter for all of us.”
The prospect of armed conflict arising from the present tense situation has prompted more than 50 Ukrainian men taking part in the Lisbon rallies to submit their names for enrollment in the newly formed National Guard of Ukraine.
If Russia goes ahead and formally absorbs Crimea into the Federation - as now seems certain – or broadens its intervention in the Ukraine, it could lead to a humanitarian crisis with large numbers of refugees seeking sanctuary elsewhere in Ukraine or abroad.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Gypsies on the road to integration

Deep-rooted discrimination and disaffection persist between the Gypsies and the wider public in Portugal, but there are signs that the ethnic divide is crumbling. Leading voices on both sides are calling for an end to the negative stereotyping of the Gypsies, and for the Gypsies themselves to interact more positively with mainstream society. Integration seems to be replacing countless years of intolerance and intransigence, but it is a painfully slow process.
The Roma, as they are more formally referred to internationally, maintain their own distinct cultural identity. They continue to live in close family groups, some still nomadic, others more or less settled in encampments or council housing scattered all across Portugal.
 Widely disliked within the mainstream population, the Roma are perceived as dishonest. Misinformation and myths abound. Lack of communication not only clouds proper understanding, but stokes animosities and fears on both sides. It is a vicious circle.
Two very different projects give some idea of what is currently being done to help make a breakthrough. Short, medium and long-term measures are contained in a ‘national strategy for integration’ adopted by the Portuguese government last year.
Complementing this at a very personal level, the Peta Birch Community Association in the Algarve is bringing specialist health care, medicine, food, clothing and essential supplies  to the children of Gypsy families in the Albufeira area. They are doing this with the help of other organisations, such as ACCA (Associação de Solidariedade com as Crianças Carenciadas do Algarve).

Racist stereotyping has gone hand-in-hand with bigotry and persecution ever since the Roma arrived in Europe from India via North Africa six centuries ago. In Nazi Germany, the Gypsies like the Jews were subjected to concentration camps and mass murder.
Without a homeland of their own, millions of Gypsies speaking different languages live in diverse communities all over Europe as well as in the Middle East and the Americas.
The Roma population in Portugal is estimated to be between 40,000 and 60,000, with concentrations in Lisbon, Setúbal, the Alentejo and the Algarve. The largest communities in the Algarve seem to be in the Portimão, Loulé and Faro municipalities. Virtually all Gypsies in this country have Portuguese nationality.
A report last year by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) said the difficulties faced by the Roma in Portugal were mainly in the fields of employment, housing, health and education.
The ECRI said that while there were still serious human rights issues, “important indicatives have been taken to improve the situation.”
Top of the list is the national strategy, which the ECRI was pleased to note, “is based on the principle that integration is a two-way process and that it involves the participation of local authorities, civil society and Roma people in all stages of design, monitoring and evaluation.”
The High Commission for Immigration and Intercultural Dialogue (ACIDI), a Portuguese state institute, is behind an on-going programme aimed at improving Roma access to services and equal opportunities by introducing socio-cultural mediators to town halls.
Lagoa Councillor Anabela Simão Rocha is among those highly sensitive and sympathetic to the Roma. Far from being transitory, a Gypsy community has existed in the Lagoa area for more than five decades, she says. A number of families have been living in an integrated council housing bairro in the village of Porches within the municipality for several years.
On whether the fears and mistrust of the public are justified, she commented: “There are good and bad among all groups of people. Our experience is that Gypsies are mostly law-abiding people who deserve our respect.”
This view is shared by Samantha Birch of the Peta Birch Community Association whose Roma Family Welfare programme brings her into day-to-day contact with deprived Gypies.
In response to whether Gypsies are proportionally responsible for more crimes of theft or drug dealing than other groups, a Polícia Judiciáia spokesperson said: “Our statistical records do not take into consideration race, religion or nationality.”
João da Cruz Reis, an astute, 42-year-old Gypsy pastor living in Porches whose evangelical work means he travels to Lisbon, Madeira, the Azores and Spain, told us of how attitudes and social behaviour vary from community to community.
Some Roma are more hidebound by tradition and less willing to co-operate with officialdom and the wider public than others. Attitudes are changing, but very slowly, he said.
 Some families live on incomes from trading, some get by on state benefits, but the poverty suffered by others can give rise to hostile behaviour, exacerbate family difficulties and cause further inter-community friction.
“The Algarve is a region of socio-economic contrasts and asymmetries and this is also true for Roma communities living in this region,” says AISI High Commissioner Rosário Farmhouse.
Gypsies living in encampments devoid of basic sanitation, such the one near the Albufeira marina, say they would  welcome the opportunity to move into council housing – but none is yet available to them.
“The true traditional way of life for us is finished. It is not like it used to be,” says José da Silva Reis, the head of the Albufeira marina community.  “We have to live together with other people now. We are not discriminatory. For us it is more important to have a proper house, to have our kids in school learning to read and write so they have opportunities and jobs when they are older.
“Our family is more important now than continuing to live in this way,” he told us looking around his rough hillside settlement of shacks. “If we had to give up our free way of life with our animals for a house and a better standard of living, we would.”
Poor education and inadequate job training, plus a lack of trust on the part of employers, contribute to high levels of unemployment among Gypsies throughout Portugal. Only about one in 10 aged between 20 and 64 is in regular paid employment, concluded a recent national survey. About half of the job seekers questioned said they had experienced discrimination because of their ethnic background.
The survey indicated that more than 50% of Gypsies have had no schooling at all and are illiterate. Fewer than one in 10 has completed upper secondary education. The Gypsy leaders we spoke to wholeheartedly agree with the official view that this has to change.
Change is not coming easily. Having welcomed us into her clean and tidy two-roomed shanty home, a young woman whose husband is serving a 10-year term in jail, explained a dilemma facing many Gypsy mothers like herself. She wanted a good education for her two daughters and was well aware that completing secondary school is now legally mandatory, but  traditionally Gypsy girls are expected to get married as young as 13 or 14.
The national integration strategy hopes that by the end of the decade 30% of young Roma adults will complete secondary or occupational education, and that 2% will complete higher education.
While helping to ameliorate suffering among horses owned by Gypsies, in 2012 Peta Birch recognised the need for specialist medical help among children in encampments. Regardless of race or creed, she was determined to help them. Her family founded the Peta Birch Community Association in her memory after she was tragically killed in a car accident last year.
While currently working in close harmony with Gypsies providing health care, such as dental, ear and optical treatment, her daughter Samantha says, “in the longer term we hope to promote educational opportunities and work skills.”
The sheer scale and complexity of the situation, plus a dearth of financial and material support because of ingrained mistrust and prejudice among potential donors, makes it hard for a small private charity like the Peta Birch Community Association to operate effectively.
Despite this, the charity is determined to forge ahead and its  Roma Family Welfare project will undoubtedly help bridge the racial divide.

l     Roma Family Welfare contacts:

Friday, March 7, 2014

Portugal’s Ukrainians condemn Putin

Ukrainians living in Portugal say they want peace, democracy and the rule of law in their homeland. They condemn Russia’s President Putin for ‘interfering’ in the current crisis there.
Ukraine is opposed to the rule of force, intimidation and provocations from President Putin’s side,”  Pavlo Sadokha, president of the Association of Ukrainians in Portugal, told us.
Members of the association have been holding regular protest demonstrations outside the Russian Embassy in LisbonThese seem set to continue in the run-up to the referendum in which the people of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea will be asked if they are in favour of becoming a constituent territory of the Russian Federation and  restoring Crimea’s 1992 constitution.
“We are going do everything we can to wake up public opinion and the political establishment in order to stop Putin’s aggression and interference in Ukraine,” said Mr Sadokha.
He contended that misinformation was being disseminated about the current situation and that some sources were exaggerating divisions.
“First,  the Ukrainians are united against Yanukovych’s dictatorship. Now Putin’s aggression has united Ukrainians in an unprecedented way, without regard to language, religion and origin.
“There is a small percentage of people supporting Russia as can be seen in Crimea, but even there a huge part of the population is opposed to the aggression and Anschluss.
“This part of the population, including not only Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians, but also ethnic Russians, is being intimidated and silenced under threat of weapons and physical violence.”
He added: “We believe diplomatic and economic sanctions are important and should be further enhanced. The military containment - not war -  is also very important and should be launched.”
There are  about 45,000 Ukrainian expatriates living in this country in addition to the 10,000 who have taken out Portuguese citizenship. They represent the second biggest immigrant community after Brazilians.
 Ukrainians have been immigrating to Portugal over the past 20 years because of the economic hardship and massive unemployment that followed the break-up of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991.
They have been attracted by jobs, particularly in the construction industry, and favourable immigration legislation. After the bloodless ‘Orange Revolution’ in 2004 against a rigged run-off  election and amid rising hopes of economic improvement, a number of  Ukrainians returned home.
With the rise of austerity in Portugal, this country is not so attractive anymore and Ukrainians have been moving to better-off countries in the EU, including Germany, France and the UK.
Mr Sadokha confirmed that Ukrainians living abroad not only keep very close ties with their families and developments back home, but hugely contribute to the Ukrainian economy through remittances.

* Ukrainians demonstrating in Lisbon

Friday, February 28, 2014

Golden Visa scheme looks set to soar

Portugal’s burgeoning ‘Golden Visa’ programme could see a huge upsurge in applications, particularly from wealthy Chinese, as a result of the recent scrapping of a controversial investor scheme in Canada.
News of this comes as new measures are about to be introduced to stop alleged abuse of the programme from within immigration services as well as among estate agents and illegal intermediaries.
.The Canadian scheme allowed foreigners with a net worth of more than a million euros (C$1.6 million) to gain residency and perhaps citizenship by lending the government €526,000 (C$800,000) that would be paid back in about five years without interest.
Many Canadians criticised the scheme as a way for rich foreigners to buy citizenship and live abroad without creating jobs or economic growth in Canada.
The scheme was brought to a close in Canada’s budget this month because it was viewed as "a flawed, inefficient way to lure wealthy entrepreneurs who could benefit the economy," according to the Toronto-based Globe and Mail.  It meant that “tens of thousands of those who have applied to the program and are currently on the waiting list will have their fees refunded – but will not have their applications processed,”  reported the newspaper.
The number of would-be investors is believed to be as many as 65,000, with 70% of them Chinese.
“Disappointed would-be Canadian investor migrants would do well to look to Europe, and more precisely to Portugal,” says Rosemary de Rougemont, senior partner with the Lisbon-based legal firm NDR.
“It is an opportunity for Portugal to solidify its Golden Visa programme, which was launched last year and which we have been involved with from the outset.”
Less than 1,000 residence visas have been issued in this country so far. While other countries within the EU have competing schemes, “the Portuguese programme is fast establishing itself as the European migration scheme of choice,” says Rosemary de Rougemont.
“This is because it has achieved a sensible balance between formality and attracting investment,” she adds.
A minimum investment of €500,000 in property can secure a Golden Visa residence permit to citizens of non-EU countries. It may lead to the granting of a permanent residence permit and Portuguese nationality. It also opens the door to unrestricted movement within the 26 countries of the Schengen area and quashes any need to pay tax on foreign earnings for five years.
Portugal is seen as an attractive proposition for rich foreigners seeking more convenience and security than they feel is available in their own countries. 
The potential benefit for Portugal is that significant help in turning around the country’s deeply depressed property market could give a critical lift to the economy as a whole, say advocates of the scheme.
The other ways foreign investors can become eligible is to transfer capital of at least a million euros or create at least 10 jobs in Portugal. Whatever the type of investment chosen, applicants must maintain it for a minimum of five years. There are other conditions, including precautions against money laundering, but for honest applicants these are not onerous.
Many of the Chinese investors have been attracted to the scheme because of concerns about their children’s education and health in their much polluted homeland, or because of speculation that China may be following in Europe’s footsteps and heading for an economic collapse of its own.
Applications have also been coming in from countries as diverse as Russia, Angola, Brazil and South Africa. A growing number are emerging from Arab countries. A Portuguese trade delegation has been visiting Oman this week to familiarise investors there with the programme.
The Association of Professionals and Real Estate Enterprises of Portugal (APEMIP) will soon sign agreements in China aimed at curbing abuses related to the Golden Visa scheme, such as phoney property price inflations and greedy ‘introducers’ cashing in. 
      The agreements, drawn up in collaboration with Portugal’s Ministry of Justice, will be signed during the Portugal-China Property and Investment Road Show  in Shanghai between March 14 and 17.