People who intend to seek asylum in Portugal must present themselves to the authorities or to the Aliens and Border Service - Division of Refugees ("Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras – Divisão de Refugiados – SEF") within a deadline of 8 days from the moment of arrival.
After the decision of admission or rejection of the claim - which is likely be delayed – the asylum-seekers will be given a Declaration of Asylum Claim, issued by SEF.
The Declaration of Asylum Claim:
If the application is considered admissible this does not mean the status has been granted, but that it fulfils the requirements for examination.
Once the application for asylum has been admitted, a Temporary Residence Permit will be issued which:
Vulnerable cases, which are:
The claims submitted at border points are subject to a more reduced procedure. It is important the asylum seekers, after the submission of the claim to the border authorities, contact the CPR as soon as possible. In the same way, these organisations must be informed whenever the applicants are notified regarding any document or decision about their asylum process.
All the documents requiring the signature of the asylum seekers must be translated into a language they can understand.
The claim being admitted, this is an acceptance of examination of the case, and then a Temporary Residence Permit will be issued to the applicant. Holding this document, the applicants shall be entitled to legal counselling provided by the CPR while the social assistance will be granted by Social Security, until they receive a wage for their work, within a maximum period of 4 months (with the exception of very specific situations).
After the analysis of the asylum claim, it can be:
ACCOMMODATION AND HOUSING
Accommodation is the most urgent problem for asylum-seekers on arriving in Portugal.
How to solve this problem of emergency accommodation at the moment of arrival in the country:
To prove the payment of the rent, the landlord gives a receipt for each monthly payment.
The contract is signed by the landlord, the tenant and guarantors.
The guarantors are one or more persons of the tenant’s acquaintance that secure the fulfilment of the obligations being responsible for them in case of non-fulfilment of the contract.
Nearly always, one extra month of rent has to be paid in advance – the guarantee month - at the same time as the first payment which shall be returned when the tenant leaves.
The tenant needs to prove that with his/her income he/she can clearly afford the expenses.
Renting a house, the tenant is responsible for the monthly payment of:
Water – EPAL in Lisbon, City Council Services of the residential area;
Electricity – LTE in Lisbon;
Gas – LTE, (if it is city gas);
Telephone – Portugal Telecom.
How and where shall we look for a house?
ATTENTION: Before committing yourself, you must visit the place.
Some real estate agencies require an initial or monthly payment to show the house. This is an illegitimate condition.
The renting should be done under similar conditions as required for nationals.
Rights and Obligations of the tenant
There is the possibility of having to resort to the Housing and Building Co-operative Societies that build houses at a lower cost than their commercial value. To have access to these houses it is necessary to became a partner of a Co-operative Society paying a low monthly fee.
When the buildings are finished, people apply for their chosen dwelling and the selection is done according to their means of income.
ATTENTION: This is a delayed procedure.
Asylum seekers, stateless persons and refugees regardless of whether they are holding a Residence Permit (temporary or not) are entitled to medical assistance and medication as is granted to the Portuguese population.
This means they are entitled to:
The Health Centres are divided into areas. People register with a centre according to their residential area.
To register with a Health Centre it is necessary to require a certificate of residence ("Atestado de Residência") to the parish ("Junta de Freguesia") proving that you are living in that specific area.
(1) Emergency consultations in Central Hospitals: 1 000$00; emergency consultations in District Hospitals: 600$00; emergency consultations in Permanent Assistence Services: 400$00; emergency consultations in Healt Centres: 400$00; regular consultations the Health Centres: 300$00 - Taxes in 1998.
Attention: The Health Centres assist a huge group patients. A waiting time for consultations is usual.
EMPLOYMENT AND PROFESSIONAL TRAINING
Before being accorded the Temporary Residence Permit, the asylum seeker can not accede or perform a professional activity, nor attend professional courses.
It is only after the issue of a Residence Permit that an alien is considered to be entirely fulfilling the conditions of living in Portugal and to be able to perform a professional activity.
But the conditions of access to work which apply to refugees are not the same as to nationals.
In order for an alien to have access to work, it is necessary that:
A resident alien has the same rights as the nationals working in the same place in the same circumstances.
How to seek a job?
In newspapers, in employment advertisements, or through the support of organisations and institutions as the Employment and Professional Training Institute ("Instituto de Emprego e Formação Profissional"), temporary employment companies and employment clubs.
The "Instituto de Emprego e Formação Profissional" (IEFP)
The IEFT has Employment Centres distributed all around the country.
The applicants shall contact the IEFP’s Employment Centre of their area of residence.
Who may apply
Those who hold a Residence Permit:
Temporary employment companies work as intermediates between job supply and demand .
These companies are designated temporary employment companies because the labour agreement is made for a limited period from the beginning, not exceeding one year.
What to do?
The applicants shall present themselves to these companies and register as professionals in a certain area (for instance: carpenters)
To register it is necessary to provide:
The applicants are required to update their file-card.
The applicants are allowed to get other jobs while they are not working through the temporary employment company.
Employment Clubs work in the "Instituto de Emprego e Formação Profissional" as well as in many other social solidarity associations, and are intended to support the applicants’ integration into professional life.
Once started in a professional activity, the applicants will receive a monthly salary.
There is a minimum limitation for the salary – the minimum national salary - under which the employer shall not engage (2).
Fiscal charges and taxes
When the applicants are not suitably prepared to perform a professional activity, the Centres offer:
The professional training is taught in professional training schools,
IEFP’ s Employment Centres, some temporary employment companies, social
solidarity associations and other companies devoted to training.
(2) PTE: 58.900 - (58
900$00) in 1998
Regarding access to education, it is necessary to differentiate between:
Asylum seekers of school age holding a Temporary Residence Permit have access to the normal obligatory schooling, under the same conditions as national citizens.
In cases where they possess documentation proving the education received in their country of origin, they shall apply for the recognition of their studies in order to be integrated into the Educational System.
In cases where they do not possess the required documentation, they shall address themselves in accordance with their level of education to the Basic Educational Department ("DEB") or to the Secondary Educational Department ("DES") asking for a diagnostic test in order to be integrated into the Portuguese Educational System.
It is very important to learn the Portuguese Language. A lack of knowledge of the language makes studying unlikely and raises more difficulties in finding a job.
In the CPR there are free ‘Portuguese for foreigners’ Courses. These courses are also available at some Universities, Institutes and Language Centres, but these are not free of charge.
Request of recognition of equivalent qualifications
This request can be made in the following situations:
Recognition of academic degrees
In the case of recognition of academic degrees, the decision is taken by a Superior Educational Institution. Only the State Superior Educational Institutes have the competence to recognise academic degrees.
The request can be submitted only once to a single educational institute.
The documentation presented must be authenticated ... "by the Portuguese embassy or consulate in the area or the foreign country embassy or consulate in Portugal...." (3).
With respect to adults who wish to complete their education, either learning to read and write, accomplishment of obligatory education or simply to follow studies (10th, 11th and 12th school years), there are two options:
In the private sector there are different educational institutes running specific courses both during the day and at night.
To get more information, people must contact the Information and Public Relations Centre of the Ministry of Education ("CIREP").
MINIMUM GUARANTEED INCOME ("RENDIMENTO MÍNIMO GARANTIDO")
Any alien with legal residence in Portugal can apply for the Minimum Guaranteed Income and must present, at the time of the request, one photocopy of the Residence Permit.
The Minimum Income shall be required in the Regional Social Security Centres.
This is not just a benefit rendered, it is part of a social assistance programme which is intended to help the households including employment, health, education, housing and justice areas.
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COMISSÃO NACIONAL DO RENDIMENTO GARANTIDO, Guia de Recursos para Apoio aos Programas de Inserção.
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CONSELHO PORTUGUÊS PARA OS REFUGIADOS, O asilo em Portugal, Ed. Conselho Português para os Refugiados, Lisbon, 1994, 2 vols.
INSTITUTO DE GESTÃO E ALIENAÇÃO DO PATRIMÓNIO, Manual de Habitação, Ed. IGAPHE, Lisbon, 1995.
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