1500 refugees – most of them Syrians relocated from Greece and Italy by the European Commission – have applied for asylum in Portugal since December 2015. In the meantime, more than half of them have already left the country in search of greener pastures. Only a quarter has obtained refugee status.
15 of them have ever since applied for family reunification.
1 has succeeded so far. Just one!
‘It’s a shame how Portugal treats his refugees’, says Jose Manuel Pureza, MP of the Left Bloc (BE). ’The Portuguese government is – unlike many European countries – willing to accept more refugees. That’s positive. The problem, however, is the practical implementation.’
‘The bureaucratic and administrative obstacles for refugees are enormous’, explains Francesco Vacchiano, investigator at the Institute for Social Science (ICS) from the University of Lisbon. ‘While people arrive here full of hope, our system only allows marginal positioning in society, not real integration. These refugees are completely left on their own. They get a roof over their heads, an allowance of 150 euro per month and are not – officially – allowed to work. That’s it! Their – well-meant – scattered allocation all over the country generates even further isolation’.
‘People are simply put somewhere and have no say at all in the conditions in which they are accommodated’, Vacchiano emphasizes. ‘As if a refugee doesn’t have a voice of his own. His educational background and profession don’t exist anymore. These are simply deleted.’
The granting of a residence permit by the SEF ( Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras) – Portugal’s immigration and border police – takes by and large 12 to 18 months. One can only apply for family reunification áfter obtaining the permit, which takes ‘at least another 5-6 months’, according to SEF.
Besides, families aren’t evaluated as a whole but each member is screened one at a time, giving rise to even more delay in the reunification process.
One can only conclude, that it makes little sense to allow more asylum seekers into the country if SEF is not able – or willing – to step up their work. Even if the government preaches, that it wants to welcome another 1000 refugees this year.
Bom fim de semana Enjoy your weekend (pic SAPO/Público)