Despite being born in Portugal, Diogo Varela is not Portuguese. He holds a Capeverdian passport, even though he has never even been to Cape Verde. This 25-year-old man is one of the thousands of Afrodescendants in this circumstance.

After serving a three and a half year prison sentence, he lost SEF’s (Foreigners and Borders Services) permanent residency status and resided illegally in Portugal. Diogo has reintegrated into society. He is in full-time employment, married with a child.

However, there is something missing. His country does not recognise him as a Portuguese national. In the eyes of the Portuguese government, he is simply another immigrant who is in Portugal. Currently, he holds a temporary residency status that he can renew every five years, although it is ill-suited to his circumstances.

By law, Diogo is not eligible for Portuguese nationality since he committed a crime punishable by three or more years in prison.

Until his criminal record is clean, he is unable to start the process of obtaining Portuguese nationality even though Portugal has always been his home.

Tired of waiting for his country to recognise his rights as a citizen, he has decided to emigrate with his family in the hope of a better life abroad. This is his story of how someone can be an alien in the country they call home.


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Cape Verdean passport

Diogo was born in Portugal and despiste never visiting the country he is only recognised as a cape verdean citizen.


Letter sent to Diogo by José Manuel Pureza, a Bloco de Esquerda deputy in 2017. Diogo addressed a letter to the Portuguese Parliament exposing his situation

Letter sent to Diogo by José Manuel Pureza, a Bloco de Esquerda deputy in 2017. Diogo addressed a letter to the Portuguese Parliament exposing his situation

Dear Diogo Varela,

We apologise for the delay in our reply to your letter. The case that you have described to us is utterly unacceptable. However, unforgivably, you have become one of many whose cases have demonstrated to us that SEF grossly violates the rights of thousands of people and has indeed broken the law.

Palácio de S. Bento – Lisbon

We have requested time and time again that the Government addresses SEF’s arbitrariness and its systemic disregard for the timeframes in which expressions of interest and resources must be dealt with.

We will continue to obstinately come to the defence of the rights of people in similar situations to you.

I would like to ask you to keep us informed if there are any relevant developments in your case.

We remain at your service and you can count on Bloco de Esquerda to help resolve your problem and those of countless others in analogous situations.

-José Manuel Pureza-


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Temporary residency

On top, the European Union family card Diogo received after getting married. This document allows him to live in Europe but has to be renewed every five years.

Above, Diogo’s permanent residency card before being arrested.

This is a work in progress.