Portuguese Romanis
1892 description of a group of Romani from the Alentejo
Total population
est. 30,000 – 50,000
Regions with significant populations
Lisbon, Setúbal, Alentejo and Algarve
Portuguese, Caló
Roman Catholicism

The Romani people in Portugal, known in spoken Portuguese as ciganos (Portuguese pronunciation: [siˈɣɐnuʃ]), but also alternatively known as calés, calós, and boémios, are a minority ethnic group. The exact numbers of Romani people in the country are unknown—estimates vary from 40,000 to 60,000.[1][2]

As implied by some of their most common local names, the Portuguese Romani belong to the Iberian Kale 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 has been registered in 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.[3] As a group of people, the Romani have had a disproportionate representation in annual arrests, incarceration numbers and police reports across the country and throughout time.[4]

The number of Romani people 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[5] there are about 40,000 to 60,000 spread all over the country.[1][2][6] According to the Portuguese branch of Amnesty International, there are about 30,000 to 50,000 around 2010.[7] The national High Commissioner for Migrations places the number at around 37,000.[8]


The first Romani arrived in Portugal in the late 15th century. The presence of Romani 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 (some listed below) were aimed at the Romani, who were only recognised as citizens in 1822, after the Liberal Revolution of 1820.[9][10][11][12] In this context, Portuguese Romani people unable to embrace a socially-accepted level of cultural assimilation by giving up their language, dress code and customs, and deemed irredeemable, were expelled to the Portuguese colonies of Angola, Cape Verde and Brazil.[13]

A latter wave of Romani migration in the late 19th century entered through the northern border.[9]

Legal status

After the first Romani 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 following monarchs:[10][14][11][12]

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 Romani communities.[10] 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).[15] 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.[16][17]

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.[18] 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 Romani communities and was unconstitutional in its entirety for violating the principle of equality.[19][17]

Only in 2010 did the Government pass a new regulation overriding the 1985 one, removing all explicit or implicit mentions of specific ethnicities.[20]

Racism and Discrimination

In the turn of the 20th century, in addition to discriminatory norms enshrined in regulations of the gendarmerie, there were at least two episodes of municipalities expelling the local Romani communities due to an increase in criminal activities attributed to them: in Ponte de Lima, Viana do Castelo, in 1993, and in Faro, Algarve, in 2003.[21][22][14][9]

In 2017, André Ventura, then a candidate to the Loures City Council for the centre-right Social Democratic Party, the People's Party and the Monarchist Party, attracted attention for his remarks about the Romani communities during the campaign, claiming they were "almost exclusively dependent on state subsidies" and "considered themselves to be above the law".[23][24] After the backlash that followed, the People's Party removed their support for the candidate.[25] In 2018, Ventura left the Social Democratic Party and a year later formed a far-right party, Chega, being elected as an MP that same year with the same racist platform. Since 2017, Ventura has always maintained and reiterated his racist remarks against the Romani and black communities.[26][27] In 2020, after asking that Katar Moreira, a black MP born in Guinea-Bissau, "be sent back to her homeland",[28] advocating that the Romani be subject to an ethnically-specific lockdown so not to spread COVID-19,[29] and belittling presidential contender Ana Gomes as the "gypsy candidate",[30] he said in an interview during the presidential election campaign that he "wouldn't like a daughter of his to marry a gypsy".[31] Also in 2020, Ventura was charged with two fines by the Commission for Equality and Against Racial Discrimination for racist comments against Romani people on social media.[32][33]

Integration programmes

Governmental and municipal programmes to promote Romani integration were launched in order to try the avoidance of a lifestyle built upon underground economy, plain crime and juvenile delinquency. The areas where most Portuguese Romani used to live were seen as supportive of a criminal way of life so welfare and resettling programmes were directed toward the Portuguese Romani community. 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.[34][35][36] In 2013, the XIX Constitutional Government of Portugal, led then by Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho, 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.[10][37][38]

Notable individuals

See also


  1. ^ a b Gomes, Catarina (5 February 2017). "Só 2,5% dos ciganos completaram o ensino secundário". PÚBLICO (in Portuguese). Retrieved 17 March 2024.
  2. ^ a b Lourenço, Jaime (29 June 2023). "Comunidade cigana: as inverdades que levam à discriminação e exclusão". UALMedia (in European Portuguese). Retrieved 17 March 2024.
  3. ^ (in Portuguese) Joel Serrão, Ciganos, in Dicionário de História de Portugal, Lisboa, 2006.
  4. ^ "Criminalidade, Etnicidade e Desigualdades O crime nos reclusos dos PALOP, Leste Europeu e de etnia cigana e as percepções dos guardas prisionais e dos elementos da direcção acerca deles" (PDF).
  5. ^ (in Portuguese) ECRI (2002), Relatório da Comissão Europeia contra o Racismo e a Intolerância - Segundo Relatório sobre Portugal, Estrasburgo, p. 23 (In Portuguese). Archived 2008-12-18 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ (in Portuguese) "Comissão critica Portugal por discriminar ciganos" in Diário de Notícias, 13/02/2007 Archived 2009-01-14 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ As reported by the newspaper Público on April 7, 2010 "Amnistia Internacional alerta para marginalização dos ciganos em Portugal - Sociedade - PUBLICO.PT". Archived from the original on 1 October 2011. Retrieved 7 April 2010..
  8. ^ "Comunidade cigana em Portugal é de 37 mil indivíduos e 91,3% não tem o 3.º ciclo". Diário de Notícias (in Portuguese). Lusa. 19 May 2017. Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  9. ^ a b c Flunser Pimentel, Irene (15 February 2021). "Hoje são os ciganos em Portugal. E amanhã?". Público (in Portuguese). Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  10. ^ a b c d Pereira, Ana Cristina (10 February 2019). "Os ciganos portugueses começam a "sair da clandestinidade"" [The Portuguese Gypsies are starting to “come out of hiding”] (in Portuguese). Público. Retrieved 17 May 2020.
  11. ^ a b Mendonça, Manuela (19 December 2011). "Uma breve história sobre o povo cigano" [A short history of the Gypsy people]. Secretariado Diocesano de Lisboa da Obra Nacional da Pastoral dos Ciganos (in Portuguese). Retrieved 17 May 2020.
  12. ^ a b "Portugal: 500 anos a tentar expulsar os ciganos com deportações para África e Brasil" [Portugal: 500 years trying to send the Gypsies to exile in Africa and Brazil] (in Portuguese). Vortex Magazine. 17 November 2017. Retrieved 17 May 2020.
  13. ^ The Routledge International Handbook of New Critical Race and Whiteness Studies.
  14. ^ a b Pereira Bastos, José Gabriel (11 July 2019). "A paixão xenófoba de Bonifácio, a questão cigana e o racismo de Estado". Público (in Portuguese). Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  15. ^ "Decreto n.º 6950, de 20 de setembro de 1920" [Decree no. 6950]. Diário do Governo, 1.ª série, n.º 186 (in Portuguese). I (186): 1170. 20 September 1920. Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  16. ^ "Resolução n.º 179/80, de 2 de Junho de 1980". Diário da República, 1.ª série, n.º 127 (in Portuguese). I (127). 2 June 1980.
  17. ^ a b "Acórdão n.º 452/89 do Tribunal Constitucional, de 22 de Julho de 1989" [Judgment no. 452/89 of the Constitutional Court]. Diário da República, 1.ª série, n.º 167 (in Portuguese). I (167). 22 July 1989. Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  18. ^ "Portaria n.º 722/85, de 25 de Setembro de 1985". Diário da República, 1.ª série, n.º 221 (in Portuguese). I (221). 25 September 1985. Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  19. ^ Amaro, José Bento (26 July 2008). "Portaria de 1985 manda GNR vigiar nómadas e mendigos". Público (in Portuguese). Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  20. ^ "Portaria n.º 295/2010, de 1 de Junho". Diário da República, 1.ª série, n.º 106 (in Portuguese). I (106). 1 June 2010. Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  21. ^ Rodrigues, Carlos (24 May 1993). "Expulsão de ciganos em Ponte de Lima". RTP (in Portuguese). Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  22. ^ "Delinquência Dá Expulsão". Correio da Manhã (in Portuguese). 18 July 2003. Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  23. ^ Lima Cunha, Mariana (18 July 2017). "Passos confirma apoio a André Ventura". Expresso (in Portuguese). Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  24. ^ Caetano, Maria João (7 October 2019). "Ciganos, imigrantes e prisões. O que diz André Ventura". Diário de Notícias (in Portuguese). Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  25. ^ "CDS retira apoio a André Ventura, o candidato que fez comentários sobre ciganos". Rádio Renascença (in Portuguese). 18 July 2017. Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  26. ^ Alberti, Mia (28 September 2020). "Portugal records surge in racist violence as far right rises". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  27. ^ Hume, Tim (25 January 2021). "Portugal Had Seemed Immune to Far-Right Populism. Until Now". Vice. Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  28. ^ "André Ventura propõe deportação de Joacine Katar Moreira". SIC Notícias (in Portuguese). 28 January 2020. Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  29. ^ Cátia Carmo; Guilherme de Sousa (6 May 2020). "Chega avança com proposta para confinamento de ciganos. "É manifestamente inconstitucional"". TSF (in Portuguese). Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  30. ^ Caetano, Edgar (8 September 2020). ""Ana Gomes é a candidata cigana", diz André Ventura, que garante demitir-se caso tenha menos votos". Observador (in Portuguese). Lusa. Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  31. ^ Martins, Fábio (17 November 2020). "Miguel Sousa Tavares pergunta: "Tem algum amigo preto?". "Alguns até trabalham comigo", responde André Ventura". Magg (in Portuguese). Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  32. ^ "André Ventura multado em mais de 400 euros por discriminar ciganos". Público (in Portuguese). Lusa. 18 November 2020. Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  33. ^ Grosso, Marta (22 December 2020). "André Ventura multado em mais de três mil euros por discriminação étnica". Rádio Renascença (in Portuguese). Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  34. ^ "Resolução do Conselho de Ministros 175/96, 1996-10-19".
  35. ^ "Resolução do Conselho de Ministros 46/97, 1997-03-21".
  36. ^ "Resolução do Conselho de Ministros 18/2000, 2000-04-13".
  37. ^ "Resolução do Conselho de Ministros 25/2013, 2013-04-17".
  38. ^ "Resolução do Conselho de Ministros 154/2018, 2018-11-29".
  39. ^ a b ""O Artur Quaresma não é da minha família, mas é irmão de todos nós"". O Jogo (in Portuguese). 7 May 2020. Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  40. ^ Christiana Martins; Marisa Antunes (27 November 2015). "Carlos Miguel. "Sou cigano, não tenho culpa"". Expresso (in Portuguese). Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  41. ^ Gomes, Catarina (5 February 2017). "A importância de uma deputada ter um avô cigano". Público (in Portuguese). Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  42. ^ "Curta-metragem Portuguesa Vence Urso de Ouro em Berlim". TVI24 (in Portuguese). 20 February 2016. Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  43. ^ Nogueira Pinto, Jaime (19 November 2018). "Severa e a constante roda viva entre "o selim e a mulher" de um marialva". Observador (in Portuguese). Retrieved 15 February 2021.