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Residents

Portuguese citizenship is hot. The latest report by the borders agency SEF shows that last year more than 74,000 foreigners applied for Portuguese nationality. For the first time in history, the country’s foreign resident population exceeds half a million people (5% of the total population).

Most requests for citizenship are related to naturalization and reunion. Foreigners who acquired citizenship in 2019 came from Brazil (23.000), Israel (18.500), Cape Verde (6500), Angola (3000), Ukraine (2500), Guinea-Bissau (2500), and Turkey (1500).

Brazilians remain the largest foreign resident community in Portugal (with 150.000, representing 26% of last year’s total), followed by Cape Verdeans, Brits, Romanians, Ukrainians, Chinese, Italians, French, and Angolans.

Last year also saw a notable increase in the number of Indians and Nepalese coming for work. There are now approximately 18,000 Indians and 17.000 Nepalese legally living in the country.

Asylum applications increased as well by 45% last year, reaching 1850, the highest since 2015. The majority were single men from the African continent.

Even the Golden Visa program has seen an uplift of applications in the first quarter of 2020. Between January and April, 260 applicants and 515 dependents received their residence cards. Although the Golden Visa program was due to be curtailed in the 2019 State Budget, it will be continued in the light of the coronavirus pandemic until 2021.

On the contrary, markedly fewer refugee statuses were granted citizenship  (183 in 2019 against 286 in 2020), predominantly to nationals of Asian countries.

However, as part of a European reallocation program, Greece finally succeeded in relocating 25 Afghan boys between 15 an17 years of age from their overcrowded migrant camps to Portugal. Besides Germany, the UK, and Luxembourg, Portugal is one of the few countries in the EU that in fact responds to the Greek request. The intention is to host 250 unaccompanied minors by the end of the year.

In contrast to other countries aiming to reduce immigration, the Portuguese socialist-led minority government wants to attract more migrants, who it says are needed due to the country’s low birth-rate and aging population.

Portugal is one of the 10 EU states where fewer than 5% of residents are foreign-born. It is in this light that Parliament just before the holidays approved Portuguese nationality at birth for children of legal immigrants who have lived in the country for at least one year.


Keep fit — Fique saudável (pic Público/Sapo)







Measures

We have to stop moving because this virus can’t move on its own.

All migrants, including asylum seekers with pending applications at immigration (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras), will be treated as permanent residents until at least July 1, granting them full access to the National Health Service, welfare benefits, bank accounts, work, and rental contracts during the corona outbreak.

The Council of Ministers explained that the decision was taken ‘to reduce the risks for public health’ when maintaining the current scheduling of appointments at the immigration office, both for the border agents and the migrants and asylum seekers.

The European Commissioner for Home Affairs praised the humane approach of the left-wing government and encouraged other European countries to follow Portugal’s example.
Last year 135,000 immigrants obtained residency. Brazilians and Ukrainians make up the majority, followed by west Africans, British and French.

Portugal declared the State of Emergency on March 19 and recently extended it to April 17 with tough penalties for anyone breaking quarantine.
Suspension of non-essential services happened when only 6 had died from the virus. In Italy, this did not happen before over 1,000 people had died.

Schools in Portugal even closed before any deaths were registered.
In Spain, this happened after 84 people had died. In Italy, it took 366 and in the UK 233 deaths before schools closed.

Portugal is doing comparatively well so far. But the authorities’ advice to stay at home and keep distance has to be maintained to prevent further suffering. Researchers at the Imperial College in London suggested that without these measures deaths in Portugal could reach 70,000.

With the peak of the virus predicted in May, it is becoming increasingly clear that quarantine measures in Portugal probably have to stay in force till the end of June.
All efforts will be wasted if social distancing measures are ended too rapidly.

To finish off with a quote of the famous Dutch footballer Johan Cruijff  ‘ every disadvantage has its advantage.’
The confinement of people at home and the consequent reduction in traffic circulation and economic activities has resulted in 80% less air pollution in Lisbon, a finding also registered in other major European cities.

Stay healthy                   Fique saudável                        (pic Reuters/Público)