United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1997 - Portugal, 1 January 1997, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a8ba48.html [accessed 8 March 2014]
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During 1996, 219 people filed 216 applications for asylum in Portugal, representing a 35 percent decrease from the previous year. The percentage of applications fromRomanian asylum seekers dropped significantly in 1996 13.9 percent compared to 58.7 percent in 1995. The next largest groups of applications were from Zairians (12.5 percent) and Liberians (12 percent). There were some 780 recognized refugees in Portugal and 156 asylum applications pending at the end of 1996. In 1996, Portugal made decisions in 236 cases. Of these cases, the government granted refugee status for 2 percent, rejected 73 percent, granted humanitarian leave to remain for 9 percent, and permitted 16 percent to apply for humanitarian leave to remain. About 7 percent of the year's applications were transferred from Portugal to another EU state under the Schengen Agreement. During the year, 69 people from Indonesia's secessionist island of East Timor arrived in Portugal after staging protests in various embassies in Indonesia's capital, Jakarta. The East Timorese received Portuguese citizenship and government assistance. In November 1996, a working group that included the Portuguese government and UNHCR finished a draft proposal on a new asylum law, aimed at softening the asylum procedure introduced in the 1993 asylum law. The draft proposal was to be discussed in parliament in early 1997. Under an amnesty law passed in May 1996, "illegal" residents from Portuguese-speaking countries who had lived in Portugal since before March 25, 1995 were allowed to apply for residence permits in Portugal between June 11 and December 11. During the six-month period, more than 35,000 people took advantage of the amnesty law, including more than 9,000 from Angola, 6,500 from Cape Verde, and more than 5,000 people from Guinea-Bissau. Asylum Procedure During 1996, applications for asylum continued to be governed by the 1993 asylum law that introduced significant restrictions on asylum seekers, including an accelerated procedure for manifestly unfounded applications. Applications for asylum must be submitted 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 (NCR), a single person who serves as an independent advisor. The NCR is nominated by the Council of Ministers following a joint proposal by the minister of the interior and the minister of justice. The NCR plays an advisory role with regard to applications. The Ministry of Interior makes final asylum decisions. Asylum seekers rejected under the normal procedure may appeal negative decisions to the Supreme Administrative Court within 20 days. Rejected applicants under the "accelerated" procedure have 60 days to file their appeals. 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. Applicants admitted under the normal procedure receive limited social assistance until their case is decided. They are not legally permitted to work, but their employment is reportedly unofficially "tolerated" during this period. The majority of asylum applicants are placed in the accelerated procedure, however. During 1995, only 9.9 percent of applicants were admitted to the normal procedure. During the first half of 1996, 90 percent of applicants were placed in the accelerated procedure. Under the accelerated procedure, asylum applicants do not have the right to a subsistence allowance. UNHCR provides them temporary food and housing.