‘Only foreigners work here, he confesses. It’s hard work and poorly paid. Sixteen hours a day for the minimum wage. You keep going because they give you a contract, that is needed for a permit.’ Amit Kumar, originating from India is 32 years old and works since 2013 in Portugal. First in horticulture in the Algarve and after that in a restaurant in Belem. Although he is paying tax and social security, he runs the risk of being expelled as he can’t prove to have entered the country in a legal way. In 2017 he falls ill and has to be admitted to hospital for a week. Being unable to pay the bill, he asks his uncle in India for help. ‘I was supposed to support my family over there, not the other way around.’
When he returns to work, he discovers he is fired.
The ruling socialist party wants the government to speed up the legalization of undocumented immigrants, who have been working for more than a year and paid tax and social security. Even if they have entered the country illegally. The party invokes on Article 123 in the Aliens Act, which permits residency for foreigners on humanitarian grounds.
The reason for the amendment was the large-scale demonstration in May, when immigrants gathered before Parliament, expressing that they were treated like second-rank citizens, even though they paid tax and social insurance.
‘It concerns a group of approximately 30.000 people, who have work commitments but no rights whatsoever’, explains Flora Silva, president of the solidarity organization Olho Vivo (www.olho-vivo.org). ‘Most of them are from Lisbon but also from the Algarve, where many people from Nepal and Indonesia work in agriculture.
‘The law doesn’t promote the integration of immigrants, who work here for many years but are not treated as human beings’, says Timóteo Macedo, president of Solidaridade Imigrante (Solim). ‘Our Government argues, that we need more immigrants for our economy. Fine. They are already here, just come and see!’
Research by Solim in April showed that illegal immigrants pay on average 6 times more for a visit to the Emergency Department and 8 times more for a doctor’s consultation in Primary Health Care, than legal employees. ‘When undocumented workers pay their social security’, Macedo points out, ’there shouldn’t be any difference at all, isn’t it?’
Bom fim de semana Enjoy the weekend (pic Público)