United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1998 - Portugal, 1 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a8bc62.html [accessed 22 May 2013]
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At the end of 1997, there were 160 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection in Portugal. These included 156 asylum seekers awaiting a decision and four people granted asylum during the year. During 1997, 298 people filed 251 applications for asylum in Portugal, a 16 percent increase from the 216 applications in 1996. The largest numbers of applications were filed by persons from Liberia (22 percent), Congo/Zaire (13 percent), Sierra Leone (13 percent), and Romania (9 percent). Some 780 recognized refugees were in Portugal at the end of 1997. In 1997, Portugal made decisions in 220 asylum cases. It granted four Angolans refugee status (1.8 percent), rejected 177 cases (80.5 percent), granted humanitarian leave to remain in 12 cases (5.5 percent), and permitted 27 cases (12 percent) to apply for humanitarian leave to remain. During the year, 43 people from East Timor arrived in Portugal. They received Portuguese citizenship and government assistance. Asylum Procedure Applications for asylum in Portugal are governed by the 1993 Asylum Law that imposed significant restrictions on asylum seekers, including an accelerated procedure for manifestly unfounded applications. Asylum seekers must submit applications within eight days of arrival in Portugal to the Aliens and Border Service, within the Ministry of Interior. After 15 days, the claim is forwarded to the national commissioner for refugees, who plays an advisory role. The Ministry of Interior makes final asylum decisions. Asylum seekers rejected under the normal procedure may appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court within 20 days. Rejected applicants under the "accelerated" procedure have 60 days to appeal. This apparent contradiction in allowing "accelerated" claims a longer appeal period is not relevant in practice, however, as such appeals do not suspend deportation. In both procedures, rejected applicants must submit a separate petition to request suspension of deportation. From the enactment of the 1993 Asylum Law until early 1996, 35 rejected asylum seekers requested suspension from deportation, but none was successful. In 1997, Portugal deported 199 aliens, including four rejected asylum seekers from Romania, Congo/Zaire, and Bangladesh. Applicants admitted under the normal procedure receive limited social assistance until their case is decided. Although they are not legally permitted to work, their employment is reportedly unofficially tolerated during this period. The vast majority of asylum applicants are placed in the accelerated procedure, however. During 1997, Portugal placed 213 asylum seekers in the accelerated procedure and 15 in the normal procedure. Under the accelerated procedure, asylum applicants have no right to a subsistence allowance. UNHCR provides them temporarily with food and housing. By granting "exceptional residence permits," Portugal provides temporary protection for some people who do not meet the criteria for asylum, but who originate in countries experiencing "armed conflicts" or "systematic violation of human rights." In December 1997, the Portuguese parliament discussed a draft proposal for a new asylum law, aimed at softening the asylum procedure introduced in the 1993 Asylum Law. The draft legislation included a new asylum procedural format, the introduction of formal consultation with UNHCR and the Portuguese Council for Refugees, an overhaul of basic social support conditions, and the formal institution of temporary protection and protection on humanitarian grounds. (The bill was approved by Portugal's parliament on January 29, 1998.)