Europe Desk, Peer Tanim Ahmad – The Portuguese government has recently restated its commitment by affirming that the integration and reception of refugees is a priority, to which a “continuous effort” is dedicated, involving the central state, local authorities and civil society. Under various international programmes, Portugal has already hosted close to 3 000 refugees.
There have been changes in recent years: the number of asylum requests in 2015 was double that of 2014 (477), for example, and since then the number of requests has continued to grow, now reaching more than a thousand every year. The latest data released by the Aliens and Borders Service (SEF), however, show a decline – likely due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic: in 2020, 1 002 asylum requests were registered, which was a decrease of 34.5% compared with 2019 (when 1 849 requests were registered).
Among the EU programmes currently underway, one is aimed at assisting the more than 5 000 children living in refugee camps in Greece, of whom Portugal proposed to receive 500. According to data released in May, Portugal is hosting the fourth-highest number of unaccompanied minors (having received 100 already) among the Member States, after France, Germany and Finland.
Despite all this progress made by Portugal, there are still various challenges in refugee support that it must overcome. This is highlighted in the most recent report on the integration of refugees, authored by Catarina Reis Oliveira, coordinator of the Observatory for Migration. The report discusses overcrowding in some refugee hosting centres leading to the necessary and problematic rental of dwellings in surrounding areas, barriers faced by refugees in securing a job or finding decent housing, and limitations in the provision of accessible Portuguese language classes.