Country Report: Portugal - 2017 Update
Overview of the main changes since the first report
The first report was published in November 2017.
Dublin: While in recent years asylum seekers in a Dublin procedure were systematically offered a personal interview, the information available to CPR in 2017 no longer confirms this assessment. During the year, CPR was informed by the SEF of 104 transfer decisions of adult applicants but only of 39 individual interviews, raising the question of whether the gap is related to a failure in communicating the interviews in accordance with the law or the lack of individual interviews altogether. It should be noted that recent case law from the Central Administrative Court (TAC) of Lisbon has confirmed the right of an asylum seeker to an individual interview in accordance with Article 5 of the Dublin Regulation and overturned a transfer decision to Denmark because the SEF had failed to provide the applicant with such an interview.
In 2017, the TAC of Lisbon offered clear guidance to the SEF regarding the interpretation of Article 6 of the Dublin Regulation in a judgment that quashed a transfer decision to Germany of an unaccompanied child under the care of CPR for failing to give due consideration to the best interests of the child in its reasoning, notably regarding the child’s well-being, social development and views.
Safe third country: Countries designated as safe third countries in 2017 included South Africa and Ecuador. A ruling of the TAC Lisbon from November 2017 considered the transit and the holding of a 3-month visa as evidence of a sufficient connection between the applicant and the third country concerned on the basis of which it would be reasonable for that person to go to that country.
Appeals: According to the CSTAF, in 2017 there were a total 475 appeals lodged at the TAC of Lisbon against negative decisions on asylum applications, which represents an increase of over 200% when compared to 2016.
Reception capacity: At the end of April 2017, CPR informed the SEF and the GTO that it could no longer accept new arrivals due to overcrowding. Only vulnerable cases such as women with young children were accepted in the CAR during that period. The CAR reopened in June 2017 following the transfer of several asylum seekers to housing provided by the ISS and SCML in accordance with the relevant MoUs. Systematic overcrowding has put severe strains on the living conditions and access to services, despite the continuous efforts to accommodate specific needs both at CAR and in external accommodation.
Relocation: In July 2017, the Parliament commissioned an evaluation of the reception of relocated asylum seekers in Portugal. The report, coordinated and drafted by the ACM, collected input from 39 hosting entities and 1 refugee community organisation and was completed in December 2017. The evaluation conducted by the ACM is based on a set of general indicators drawn from the priority areas of the Working Group’s national plan for the reception and integration of relocated persons. Despite the general acknowledgement of some challenges, the overall evaluation of the programme is very positive. However, the results presented regarding reception and integration conditions are based on very general quantitative indicators and provide limited qualitative information. The qualitative information presented in the report is mostly based on the consultation conducted with hosting and refugee community organisations and points to challenges such as insufficient financial support and the need for longer reception programmes; gaps in pre and post departure information; lack of interpreters; and insufficient and ill-adapted language training as well as insufficient professional training opportunities.Detention of asylum seekers
Alternatives to detention: CPR has witnessed throughout 2017 a growing tendency of the Lisbon Criminal Court to invite the SEF to give due consideration to the release of single-parent families with children and their referral to CPR’s CAR in Bobadela. However, these decisions fall short of conducting an individual assessment of necessity and proportionality and of issuing a command and in many of these instances the SEF has disregarded the recommendations issued by the court.
Detention of vulnerable applicants: A very significant percentage of vulnerable applicants such as unaccompanied children, families with children and pregnant women were detained and subject to the border procedure in 2017. CPR continued to observe long waiting periods between asylum applications filed by unaccompanied children and families with children at border points, and their entry into the national territory and referral to the CACR and CAR.
Conditions in detention facilities: In September 2017, the Ombudsman published a report on the treatment of foreign citizens in irregular situation or asylum seekers in temporary installation centres or spaces classified as such, focusing on the situation at the detention facility at the Lisbon airport. The report shed light on the detention conditions, particularly highlighting deficiencies in the treatment offered to vulnerable persons, and corroborating some of the concerns reported last year by CPR.