11 July 2014

Following amendments to the draft bill, a new asylum law entered into forced last week in Portugal, in order to transpose the Qualifications Directive, Asylum Procedures Directive and the Reception Conditions Directive.

A draft law backed by the Portuguese Parliament earlier this year, was discussed by the Parliament’s Commission on Constitutional Affairs, Rights and Liberties and modified after concern was raised by the Portuguese Refugee Council (CPR), UNHCR and Amnesty International Portugal regarding some of its provisions. CPR and UNHCR have welcomed some of the changes. For instance, contrary to the proposed law, the second appeal against a negative asylum decision will continue to have suspensive effect for all asylum seekers, including those who claim asylum at the border and for asylum seekers who appeal against a decision of being sent back to another Member State under the Dublin Regulation. Therefore, asylum seekers will have the right to stay in the country pending their appeal proceedings.

In relation to the previous law, the number of days for appealing a negative asylum decision has increased from 2 to 4 days and the admissibility phase regarding asylum requests at the border – the time allocated to the authorities to decide if people can have their asylum application examined – has increased from 5 to 7 days.

 “Although this law expands the deadlines set out in the previous law, they are still too tight, unrealistic and constitute an obstacle to an individualised analysis of the international protection needs of applicants and their right to effective judicial protection,” Mónica Farinha, CPR’s Legal Office Coordinator, told the ECRE Weekly Bulletin.

With regards to detention, CPR stresses that even though the general rule is not to detain asylum seekers, the law has significantly increased the situations in which an applicant for international protection may be placed or kept in detention. According to the new law applicants, including those under Dublin proceedings, may only be placed or kept in a detention centre “for reasons of national security, public health or where there is risk of absconding”.

CPR will continue to have the right to be informed when a person claims asylum in the country and will be able to contact the asylum seekers in order to provide information and legal advice. Since 2008, CPR has been providing direct support to 90% of the people who claim asylum in the country, providing information about the procedure and helping in matters related to integration. 

This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 11 July 2014.
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