Source: ICMC Europe, Welcome to Europe! A comprehensive guide to resettlement, 2013
The Welcome to Europe Portugal country chapter is available here for download.
Resettlement quota & actors
Start of annual quota: 2007 (ad hoc resettlement as of 2006)
Current quota: 45
Main national actors: Immigration and Borders Service (SEF) under the Ministry of the Interior, Directorate-General of Consular Affairs under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Institute of Social Security (ISS) and Institute for Employment and Vocational Training (IEFP) under the Ministry of Employment and Social Security, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Youth Courts under the Ministry of Justice, Portuguese Refugee Council (CPR), Jesuit Refugee Service
|Year||Accepted||Arrivals||Nationality⇒Country of asylum of largest groups|
|2012||30||23||Sudan (14), Eritrea (1) ⇒ Egypt and Tunisia UAM (8) Guinea Conakry (2), Ethiopia (2), LIberia (1) DR Congo (1), Somalia (1), Afghanistan (1) ⇒ Morocco, Egypt, Senegal, Kenya, Turkey, Thailand|
|2011||30||30||Eritrea (23), Iraq (5), Senegal (2) ⇒ Tunisia, Syria, Mauritania, Ukraine|
|2010||33||33||Iraq (13), D.R. Congo (7), Afghanistan (6), Somalia (3), Uganda (2) Ethiopia (1) Iran (1) ⇒ Syria, Ukraine, Mozambique, Libya, Belarus|
|2009||30||30||D.R. Congo (12), Afghanistan (10), Iraq (4), Ethiopia (3), Somalia (1) ⇒ Tanzania, Ukraine, Syria|
|UNHCR Submission categories considered for resettlement|
X Legal and physical protection needs
X Survivors of violence and torture
X Women and girls at risk
X Children and adolescents at risk
X Lack of foreseeable alternative solutions
|UNHCR Priority levels accepted (with sub-quota where applicable)|
Emergency max. 7 days between submission and resettlement
Urgent within 6 weeks between submission and resettlement
X Normal within 12 months between submission and resettlement
Portugal's resettlement programme
Legal Basis & Background
The legal basis for resettlement in Portugal is set out in Article 35 of Asylum Law 27/2008. Following two ad-hoc resettlement schemes in 2006, an official Resolution of the Council of Ministers (no.110/2007) established Portugal as a resettlement country with an annual quota of 30 refugees per year.
Since 2006, a total of 160 refugee have been resettled to Portugal. 44% were female and 35% children. The annual resettlement quota was met in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Portugal uses places from within the annual resettlement quota for persons received via intra-EU relocation - one and six persons were received from Malta in 2007 and 2010, respectively. Portugal has pledged to relocate a further six persons under EUREMA II.
Basic criteria: All refugees under UNHCR’s mandate
Supplementary Criteria: Cases accepted by Portugal to date have been from categories eligible for additional funding from the ERF 2008-13 - including women at risk (WAR), unaccompanied minors (UAM) and refugees from countries targeted within Regional Protection Programs (RPPs).
Identification and Selection
To date, all resettlement cases submitted to Portugal have been considered on a dossier basis. Processing of resettlement dossiers is carried out by SEF. Article 35 (3) of Asylum Law 27/2008 requires that resettlement submissions be shared with the Portuguese Refugee Council (CPR) for issuance of an advisory opinion on the integration needs of specific cases, to be communicated within 5 working days. For the 2012 quota, processing time from submission to decision was approximately 2 ½ months from and from acceptance to departure approximately 1 month.
To facilitate exit procedures, Portugal favours resettlement from countries where consular services are available. The Portuguese resettlement programme has historically favoured families - of the 120 refugees resettled during 2007-11, a total of 86 (72%) arrived with family members. In 2012, the programme focused solely on UAMs.
Refugee Status, Permanent Residency & Citizenship
Refugees arriving through the resettlement programme receive Convention refugee status or subsidiary protection. To date, all resettled refugees have been granted refugee status. Resettled refugees are granted a five-year residence permit, which is renewable unless prevented by cessation of refugee status, or concerns related to national security or public order.
Refugees can obtain a 1951 Convention Travel Document on request from SEF, and refugee status is automatically extended to family members born after arrival.
After a six-year period of legal residency in the country, refugees may apply for citizenship. Applicants for citizenship are required to demonstrate Portuguese language proficiency at A2 level.
In addition to immediate family members - marriage partners, children under 18, parents of children under 18 - other family members who are eligible to join through family reunification are:
- unmarried partners;
- children over 18 if legally incapable of caring for themselves/single and attending education;
- married children under 18;
- adopted children of the applicant and/or his/her partner (on legal recognition of the adoption by Portuguese authorities);
- parents and parents-in-law of adult legal residents (on demonstration of direct dependency); and
- unrelated minors in the care of the principal applicant (on legal recognition of guardianship by the Portuguese authorities).
Convention refugees are exempted from requirements to prove sufficient income or accommodation for incoming family members.
Resettlement in practice
How is information transferred between selection and reception of refugees in order to prepare for their arrival?
- Forwarding pertinent information from Refugee Referral Form (RRF) to integration actors
RRFs are passed to CPR by SEF during the selection process, and CPR’s advisory opinions on each case identify information gaps on the social profile of refugees that can be filled prior to their departure from the country of asylum. CPR shares general information with networks of local stakeholders, particularly those that are working in the area of the Reception Centre for Refugees in the municipality of Loures and the Reception Centre for Refugee Children in Lisbon.
How is information transferred for specific needs (medical or other)?
For resettled refugee children, information from the RRF on education, health, and family composition is shared on arrival with Youth Courts and healthcare providers. Local schools receive information before arrival to facilitate swift educational enrolment.
In 2012, a single general health practitioner for 8 resettled UAMs was arranged by CPR in cooperation with the local healthcare centre, and all relevant medical information from RRFs was shared before arrival with the practitioner.
Cultural Orientation: In 2008, CPR and SEF (with ERF funding) prepared a pre-departure brochure for resettled refugees that included general information about Portugal and the resettlement programme, in particular service provision and the rights and duties of refugees. The leaflet was updated in 2012 ,and is available in both Portuguese and English. The brochure was shared with IOM in the context of Portugal’s participation in the intra-EU relocation from Malta (EUREMA).
Medical Exam: no medical examinations are carried out.
Travel arrangements: Portuguese diplomatic missions & Portuguese Immigration Service
Travel arrangements are organised by SEF in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Directorate-General for Consular Affairs and UNHCR. The Portuguese Government has received assistance from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for the issuance of 'laissez-passers' and cooperates with other EU Member State consulates on visa issuance in countries where no Portuguese consulate exists. In 2012, resettled refugees were issued with Convention travel documents by the Portuguese diplomatic representation in their first country of asylum.
Integration in Practice
Prior to 2013, CPR were the lead agency responsible for the reception and initial integration of resettled refugees. For 2013, the Jesuit Refugee Service will also become involved in this area of work. As the specifics of the new programme have yet to be clarified, the remainder of the chapter focuses on the resettlement programme up to 2013.
In previous programmes, refugees were welcomed at the airport by a CPR representative, together with an appropriate interpreter, and transferred to the CPR Reception Centre in Bobadela, in the municipality of Loures just outside of Lisbon. Refugees stayed here for a period of approximately six months. The centre has capacity for 45 persons and is used to accommodate both resettled refugees and asylum seekers.
Recent increases in the number of asylum seekers, in addition to difficulties in finding move-on accommodation for resettled refugees after the initial 6-month period, has stretched the capacity of the centre. In response, the Institute of Social Security (ISS) has begun a process of 'decentralisation' of reception, or distributing refugees from the reception centre across the territory (see 'New Developments', below).
After six months of centralised reception, resettled refugees moved to housing in municipalities. Although welfare benefits received by resettled refugees are higher than average, they remain fairly limited in relation to housing costs and - despite the assistance of CPR and local social security services - finding affordable housing in the Lisbon area is challenging. Refugees subsequently tend to overstay in the reception centre, leading to bottlenecks in the reception system.
Resettled refugees have mostly stayed in and around Lisbon after the reception phase. In Lisbon, they can benefit from CPR services and other specialised services, as well as from existing refugee and migrant community networks.
Integration services & support
Length: 6 months
A 3-hour orientation class was delivered by CPR within the first week of arrival at the reception centre, and included practical, historical and cultural information on Portugal. On arrival into Portugal, children aged between 4 months and 5 years were referred to a CPR nursery school located in the reception centre. Enrolment of refugee children in public schools at basic and secondary level was also carried out immediately after arrival.
All adult resettled refugees attend 150 hours of mandatory intensive Portuguese language training while resident at the centre. After leaving the centre, refugees can access a further 150 hours of mainstream migrant language training courses under the national 'Português para Todos' programme. Supplementary language training provided by CPR at the reception centre also remains available to resettled refugees following their departure, and refugees may therefore attend over 300 hours of Portuguese language courses in total.
CPR provided legal and social support in the centre, including financial assistance for food, transportation and other personal expenses, health and psychological care referrals and translation services.
A ‘life project’ or Personalised Integration Plan (PIP) was developed by CPR for each refugee during the first reception phase. The PIP mapped professional skills and experience, academic background, language skills and refugees' own expectations of their resettlement. CPR’s Vocational Training and Employment Support Service (GIP) worked in partnership with the Portuguese Institute of Employment and Professional Training (IEFP) to support refugees in areas such as academic equivalence procedures and referrals to vocational training or opportunities for voluntary work.
After departing the reception centre, resettled refugees receive social security benefits to cover the costs of accommodation, food, transportation, education and healthcare. Social security payments are administered by the Institute of Social Security (ISS). The support provided to resettled refugees differs from mainstream social benefits in that it does not depend on prior social security contributions. As a consequence of the economic crisis, social security services have systematically reduced the level of payment received by resettled refugees, as well budget lines allocated to both integration and mainstream support services.
Use of the European Refugee Fund (ERF)
|Persons resettled using 2012 ERF funding|
X Persons resettled under a Regional Protection Programme
X Unaccompanied minors
Women and children at risk; particularly from psychological physical or sexual violence or exploitation
Persons with serious medical needs that can only be addressed through resettlement
|Pledges made to resettle under ERF specific categories for 2013|
X Persons resettled from a country or region designated for the implementation of a Regional Protection Programme
Women and children at risk
X Unaccompanied minors
Survivors of torture and violence
Persons with serious medical needs that can only be addressed through resettlement
Persons in need of emergency resettlement or urgent resettlement for legal or physical protection needs
|Pledges made to resettle under ERF resettlement common EU priorities for 2013|
|Portugal did not pledge under the common EU resettlement priorities for 2013.|
The Institute of Social Security (ISS) carried out an overall evaluation of the reception and integration of asylum seekers and resettled refugees in 2012, the results of which are as yet unpublished.
Strengths and Challenges
- NGO involvement in the planning and implementation of reception and integration services.
- The provision of specialised support at the start of the integration programme in the reception centre.
- Broad general support for resettlement, from both the political level and among the general public.
- Delays and challenges in the selection and transfer or resettled refugees resulting in late and concentrated arrivals over a short period of time.
- The lack of an inclusive government-led coordination structure offering policy and operational guidance and involving all relevant stakeholders.
- Insufficient involvement of key stakeholders at central and local levels, such as by the Institute for Employment and Professional Training (IEFP) in the national programme and municipalities in reception and integration services.
In January 2013, the ISS 'decentralised' the reception system for refugees leaving the reception centre, including resettled refugees who had reached the end of their i6-month residency there. The aim of this new policy is to distribute refugees over the territory, although the criteria on which this distribution will be based have not yet been outlined.
In October 2012, as the basis for the decentralisation process, a six-party cooperation protocol was signed by ISS, IEFP, SEF, High Commissioner for Immigration and Intercultural Dialogue (ACIDI), Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa (SCML) and CPR. A permanent commission of representatives was put in place and will work on improving policy guidance, coordination and service provision among the signatories. Municipalities have not yet been included in the new cooperation protocol and are not formally involved in the decentralisation process.
In December 2012, Portugal received eight UAMS under the resettlement programme.
They have been accommodated at the new Refugee Children Reception Centre (CACR), a partnership between CPR, SEF, the municipality of Lisbon and a private partner Swatch Tempus International.
The new CACR is located in Lisbon and has the capacity to accommodate up to 18 UAMs. Inaugurated in May 2012, the facility offers more child-friendly reception conditions with support from a multidisciplinary team of childcare workers, a social worker and legal assistance aimed at promoting access to education and healthcare.
Resources & news
UNHCR Resettlement Handbook, Portugal Country Chapter, July 2011 revision [Read more]