Until it joined the European Union in 1986, #Portugal has been a country of #emigration. Due to this fact, the country’s primary focus was on #repatriation policies. This changed drastically in 2015 when Portugal started accepting #refugees as a part of the European Relocation Program (#ERP).
Portugal had limited experience in hosting refugees and its policies weren’t sufficiently developed to properly accommodate the needs of incoming refugees. Research by Alejandro Goldberg showcases the experience of #Syrian refugees in Portugal who faced numerous institutional obstacles during their asylum and integration process. Firstly, as Goldberg reports, the ERP failed to provide refugees with accurate information about the relocation program and dismissed their preferences regarding the place of residence. The interviewed Syrians didn’t receive help in accessing employment or continuing higher education. Many of them had to start a new life in a new country without knowing the language, by themselves or with the help of other refugees.
All of the interviewees complained about the quality of the language course, which lasted only 3 months and could be accessed only months or even a year after arriving in the country. Moreover, the attitude of the institutions has been dismissive of the refugees’ emotions and the hardships.
When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, Portugal decided to grant resident status to all of the migrants and asylum seekers who were undergoing the process of legalising of stay. The decree has provided resident status to over 356 000 immigrants in 2020. However, many people with previously unregulated status weren’t addressed in this decree.
At the same time, research by Santinho et al., highlighted a problem with housing asylum seekers, including very bad conditions at the temporary accommodation and prolonged stay there.
Portugal seems to be a country open to refugees and one that introduces new policies for migrants and asylum seekers. However, in practice, we see many - and some very serious - shortcomings, which make the actual experience of refugees in Portugal hard & isolating.