Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2018, 14:34 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2002 - Portugal

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 10 June 2002
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2002 - Portugal , 10 June 2002, available at: [accessed 20 February 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

At the end of 2001, Portugal hosted 40 asylum seekers and refugees in need of protection, according to the Portuguese government and the Portuguese Refugee Council (PRC). These included 7 individuals granted asylum and 33 persons granted residence on humanitarian grounds during the year. Of the 234 persons who applied for asylum during the year, the largest number of applicants came from Sierra Leone (39), followed by Angola (29) and Afghanistan (16).

An estimated 2,500 persons – former refugees from Guinea-Bissau's 1998 civil war who lost their temporary protected status in 2000 and were residing illegally in Portugal – were able to obtain temporary residence permits in 2001 under an amendment to Portugal's aliens law.

Asylum Procedure

Portugal's 1998 asylum law, which replaced a 1993 law widely criticized as overly restrictive, governs the asylum procedure.

Under the law, the Aliens and Borders Services (SEF) determines an asylum seeker's admissibility to the normal asylum procedure. The SEF forwards admissible asylum claims to the National Commissioner for Refugees, which provides advisory opinions on cases. The Interior Ministry makes final asylum decisions.

The 1998 asylum law authorizes the Portuguese authorities to reject the asylum claims of applicants who arrive via "safe third countries." Asylum seekers denied access to the procedure on safe-third-country grounds, however, are given the chance to rebut the presumption of safety in the third country, according to the Portuguese government. Portugal transfers and receives asylum seekers with other European Union states according to the terms of the Dublin Convention, an agreement that designates the EU member state responsible for deciding asylum claims (see box, p. 190).

Applicants whose cases are found inadmissible may appeal to the National Commissioner for Refugees, which has 48 hours to make a decision. If the decision is negative, the applicant may appeal to the administrative court within eight days. Nevertheless, filing an appeal does not automatically suspend deportation. The Commissioner may also advise the Ministry of the Interior to grant residence permits on humanitarian grounds.

According to the PRC, a majority of asylum claims are denied at the admissibility phase because the asylum seeker lacks proof of identity or nationality, or because he or she traveled through a safe third country. The PRC expressed concern that some returns of rejected asylum seekers to safe third countries may result in indirect refoulement .

Asylum seekers considered admissible by the SEF receive a temporary residence permit, valid for two months and renewable monthly, until a final decision is made. Temporary residence permits also confer the right to work. Asylum seekers are entitled to free legal counseling, medical assistance, and benefits from humanitarian organizations such as the PRC.

Asylum seekers may seek accommodation in a PRC-run reception center for up to two months or they may rent accommodation elsewhere.

Persons granted asylum are permitted to reside permanently in Portugal, and receive a refugee identity card, travel documents, and access to the same social services as Portuguese citizens. However, according to the PRC, the refugee identity card is not always recognized by schools, banks, and other institutions, and the PRC has asked the government to create a new document that will be widely accepted as valid.

Rejected asylum seekers may appeal their cases to an administrative court, and negative decisions in the second instance may be appealed to the Supreme Administrative Court. Filing an appeal does not automatically suspend an applicant's deportation.

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