We believe that collection of ethno-racial data, which has been claimed for years by individuals and collectives who have been combating Institutional Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, besides being recommended by various international organizations, could be an unprecedented step in the combat against racism and inequality among ethno-racial groups in Portuguese society.
Until very recently, different Portuguese governments had shrouded themselves in the convenient, however fallacious argument of unconstitutionality. The resistance, as the growing collective articulation and mobilization, has created the possibility of ending the year of 2017 with the public commitment of the Portuguese government to move forward in this direction. However, as some options are made publicly known, our concern about the operationalization of this decision increases. Knowing that this process must respect the principles of ethno-racial representativeness and participation from the outset, we reject the idea that it begins in a crooked way, at the serious risk of no longer straightening up. We reiterate that not doing so is not only a glaring political incoherence, but also weakens the transformative potential of this data collection.
In this regard, it is important to underline the unilateral decision of the government to advance the proposal for Census 2021, consulting the National Statistics Institute (INE), without prior consultation with the racialized communities. It should also be pointed out that the Census Working Group 2021 – Ethnic and Racial Issues, under the coordination of the Office of the High Commissioner for Migration (ACM) and the Secretariat of State for Citizenship and Equality, established its first meeting for the 5th of February. Exactly that day marks three years since the brutal aggressions, with racist motivations, practiced by police agents of the Alfragide Squad, against residents of Cova da Moura, knowing that until today there is no verdict on the case. For our communities, the importance of this date does not allow it to be rewritten as a moment of dialogue and concertation.
The composition of this working group did not include Afro-descendant or Roma. This way of doing politics is symptomatic of an understanding of democracy that places racialized communities in the position of “beneficiaries” rather than agents of change. Certainly, we attribute to the State the responsibility and the duty to carry out the collection of data and to formulate public policies, but we do not give up the right to be involved and represented in this process in equal circumstances in the decision making.
If this involvement were to take place other strategic issues, so far absent from the agenda of the working group, would be on the table: How to broadly involve racialized individuals and the general population so that this collection is for them recognized and appropriate? How to guarantee the good use of this information by the media? How is the data from Census 2021 linked to other sectoral surveys, like in the field of justice and education? How do you articulate this process with the proposal to launch the International Decade of Afro-Descendants made last October by the Secretary of State for Citizenship and Equality, knowing that so far nothing was to be seen in practical terms? But above all, what structural policies to combat racism and ethno-racial inequalities are expected to be implemented in a coordinated way with the collection of this data? It is unreasonable to wait for the results of data collection to finally start thinking about a policy agenda; rather, it is this agenda that should drive the data collection process.
But the point where this process is most problematic is exactly the inscription in the umbrella of migration policy. On the one hand, ethno-racial inequalities touch upon several areas of political action – education, justice, housing, etc. – cross-referencing to the forum of citizenship and equality, beyond the restricted competence of migration policy. On the other hand, it is only those who have been very distant from the debate that is taking place in Portugal that have not yet internalized the fundamental character of the unequivocal distinction between migration policies and policies to combat racism and ethno-racial inequalities. Last September, Deputy Minister Eduardo Cabrita said: “Afro-descendants and Roma have been in Portugal for centuries … They are as Portuguese as I am.”
We cannot continue to be relegated outside the body of the nation. This is also the message of the Campaign for Another Law of Nationality, where we have been fighting for all those born in Portugal to have the right to Portuguese nationality. We are not appendices of Portuguese society, so, likewise, policies aimed at guaranteeing our full access to citizenship and equality cannot be. Data collection can be a tool at the service of ethno-racial equality, but only if it is a result of the active participation of those who have no voice or statistical footprint.
Collective and individual signatories:
Afrolis – Associação Cultural
Associação Cavaleiros de São Brás
Fundo de Apoio Social de Cabo-Verdianos em Portugal (FASCP)
KUTUCA – Associação Juvenil do Bairro das Faceiras
Núcleo de Estudantes Africanos – Instituto Superior de Ciências Sociais e Políticas (NEA-ISCSP)
We Love Carapinha
Ana Rita Alves
Apolo de Carvalho
Joacine Katar Moreira
José de Pina
José Semedo Fernandes
Maria da Graça
Sofia Peysonneau Nunes