The new Country Report on Portugal, the 21st country covered by the Asylum Information Database, provides a detailed account of the country’s legal framework, policy and practice relating to the asylum procedure, reception conditions, detention of asylum seekers and content of international protection.
Portugal has been at the centre of the implementation of the relocation programme from Italy and Greece, with a total 1,507 asylum seekers relocated so far. Asylum seekers arriving in the country through relocation had initially had their cases fast-tracked, though this trend seems to have subsided due to the increasing number of cases before the Aliens and Borders Service (SEF), the authority responsible for examining asylum claims.
Portugal has also set up a special coordination framework bringing together different reception providers in the context of relocation. Relocated asylum seekers benefit from an 18 to 24-month support programme by service providers such as the Platform for Reception of Refugees (PAR), followed by the Portuguese Refugee Council (CPR), the Municipality of Lisbon, União de Misericórdias, the Portuguese Red Cross, and other municipalities. Provisional figures suggest that one third of relocated asylum seekers in working age who are now coming to the end of the 18-month integration programme have secured employment in Portugal.
Reception arrangements for relocation run parallel to the reception system already established for spontaneously arriving asylum seekers, whereby reception responsibility is allocated to different actors depending on the type and stage of procedure an applicant is in. Asylum seekers in the regular procedure receive reception conditions from the Institute of Social Security (ISS), in admissibility and accelerated procedures by CPR, in appeal procedures by Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa (SCML), and in the border procedure by the SEF.
The border procedure remains a crucial feature of the Portuguese asylum system, as it foresees systematic detention of asylum seekers pending the examination of inadmissibility and accelerated procedure grounds at the border, which lasts 7 days. A total 260 applicants had their claims processed in detention at borders and transit zones in 2016, the vast majority in Lisbon airport. The border procedure is applied to asylum seekers, with the exception of certain categories of vulnerable groups. Whereas unaccompanied children and families were previously exempted from detention at the border, a change in practice has been witnessed in 2016, whereby these persons are only released from detention and allowed into the territory after a couple of weeks.
In 2016, Portugal registered 1,469 asylum applications, predominantly from Syria, Eritrea, Ukraine and Iraq. All four nationalities were granted protection at a nearly 100% rate by the SEF. Nationals of Ukraine and Iraq, as well as some Syrian nationals, are only granted subsidiary protection, meaning that they are entitled to shorter residence permits and more stringent rules on travel documents and naturalisation than refugee status holders.
*This article was first published at AIDA. Photo: CACR