Provision of information on the procedure

Portugal

Country Report: Provision of information on the procedure Last updated: 30/11/20

Author

Portuguese Refugee Council Visit Website

The Asylum Act provides for the right to:

  • A broad set of information on the asylum procedure and reception conditions in general;[1]
  • Information on key developments and decisions relating to the individual asylum file;[2]
  • Information on detention;[3] and
  • Specific information rights of unaccompanied children.[4]

Furthermore, the law provides for a general right to interpretation “whenever necessary” during registration of the application and throughout the asylum procedure.[5] This refers to the right to interpretation into a language that the asylum seeker understands or is reasonably expected to understand.[6]

In practice, while SEF generally complies with the obligation to inform asylum seekers of key developments, decisions and associated rights during asylum procedures, interpretation for that purpose is not systematically available and rarely includes an explanation of the grounds of the decision. The absence of translation has also been problematic in cases where SEF informs asylum seekers of developments in their applications by postal mail and e-mail, using letters written in Portuguese to which are attached documents such as accelerated procedures decisions, Dublin transfer decisions or proposals for a final decision in the regular procedure also in Portuguese. This problem mainly concerns asylum seekers residing in private accommodation. CPR has also received a few complaints from asylum seekers according to whom SEF did not provide for the interpretation of the document narrating the essential facts at the end of their personal interview. Asylum seekers thus sign a document which states that the content has been translated and agreed with them, although this is not always done in practice. 

Upon registration, the asylum seeker receives written information (available in a limited number of languages, e.g. French, English) regarding the rights and duties attached to the certificate of the asylum application. SEF has also produced information leaflets that briefly cover some of its information obligations such as the asylum procedure and the rights and duties of applicants of international protection,[7] reception conditions,[8] the Dublin III and Eurodac Regulations,[9] and a specific information leaflet for unaccompanied children regarding the asylum procedure, reception conditions, rights and duties including legal representation and age assessment.[10] The information contained in the leaflets is brief and not considered user-friendly, particularly in the case of unaccompanied children. According to CPR’s experience, the leaflets are available in a limited number of foreign languages (e.g. French, English, Arabic) and are not distributed systematically except for information on the Dublin Regulation (see Dublin: Procedure).

CPR has no indication that the common information leaflet provided for in Article 4(3) of the Dublin III Regulation is being systematically distributed. The only information provided on the functioning of the Dublin system seems to be contained in the general information leaflet on the Dublin III and Eurodac Regulations, which is very limited. Asylum seekers are systematically informed in writing of the request made to another Member State, the corresponding supporting evidence and the reply of that Member State but only at the time of written notification of the actual transfer decision.[11] This is without prejudice to the practice observed in late 2019, according to which, at the end of the personal interview in the framework of Dublin procedures, in addition to the interview form, the applicant was notified of  a document stating that the application will likely be subject to an inadmissibility decision and a corresponding to transfer to the responsible Member State in accordance to the Dublin Regulation (see Dublin: Procedure).

In the case of asylum seekers detained at the border, the certificate of the asylum application contains a brief reference to Article 26 of the Asylum Act that provides for the systematic detention of asylum seekers in the border procedure. Asylum seekers are not systematically informed or aware of their rights and obligations in detention despite the existence of information leaflets available in a limited number of foreign languages.[12] According to a recent report of the National Preventive Mechanism[13], multiple gaps in the provision of information were detected, both with regards to the applicable legal frameworks and the individual situation of the applicants.

Despite having been designated as legal representative for the vast majority of unaccompanied children who applied for asylum in 2019, CPR is unaware of the provision of child-friendly information by the SEF, including the specific information leaflet for unaccompanied children and the information leaflet provided for by Article 4(3) of the Dublin Regulation.

Furthermore, and despite written requests to that end, asylum seekers are very rarely informed of the extension of the time limit for the examination of their application, the grounds for the extension and the expected time limit for the decision in the regular procedure as required by law.[14]

Information by NGOs

CPR provides free legal information to asylum seekers throughout the asylum procedure that broadly cover the information requirements provided in the law, including tailored information to unaccompanied children and to relocated asylum seekers on the basis of individual interviews and legal counselling. CPR has also developed the HELP information portal which offers among others cultural orientation information, information on the asylum procedure, reception services and relevant institutional contacts. The portal is available in Portuguese, English, French and Spanish. However, challenges in capacity have restricted the provision of legal information during the first instance asylum procedure, particularly regarding asylum seekers placed in detention or private accommodation in more remote locations (see Regular Procedure: Legal Assistance).

Other organisations also provide legal information and assistance to asylum seekers during the first instance of the regular procedure such as JRS Portugal or CNIS for unaccompanied children under the 2017 pilot project. ACM, through its National and Local Support Centres for Migrants Integration, and CRESCER also provide information and assistance albeit in a limited number of cases and mostly focused on integration.

 


[1]  This includes information on assistance and the asylum procedure by the UNHCR and CPR (Article 13(3)); information on the right to an individual application regarding dependant relatives (Article 13(5)); general information on the rights and duties in the asylum procedure (Article 14(2)); information in writing on the rights and duties in border procedures (Article 24(2)); information on the extension of the time limit for the examination and, upon demand, of the grounds for the extension and expected time limit for the decision in the regular procedure (Article 28(2)); oral information or an information brochure on the rights and duties of asylum seekers and in particular regarding the asylum procedure; applicable time limits; the duty to substantiate the claim; available service providers of specialised legal assistance; available reception and health care service providers; legal consequences of failing to cooperate with the SEF in substantiating the asylum claim; the purpose of fingerprinting and of all rights of data subjects in accordance to the EURODAC Regulation; information on the admissibility decision (Article 49(1)(a), (b), (c) and (2)); information on the rights and duties of beneficiaries of international protection (Article 66).

[2] This includes the individual notification of first instance decisions in admissibility and accelerated procedures on national territory (Article 20(3)); the individual notification of first instance decisions in admissibility and accelerated procedures and the right to appeal at the border (Article 24(5)); individual notification of the SEF’s proposal for a first instance decision in the regular procedure (Article 29(2)); individual notification of the first instance decision and the right to appeal in the regular procedure (Article 29(6)); individual notification of the first instance decision, the right to appeal and the obligation to abandon national territory within 20 days regarding subsequent applications (Article 33(6) and (9)); individual notification of the first instance decision and the right to appeal regarding applications following a removal procedure (Article 33-A(6)); individual notification of outgoing Dublin take charge or take back decisions (Article 37(2)); individual notification of the SEF’s proposal for the cessation, revocation, ending or refusal to renew the international protection status (Article 41(6)); individual notification of the cessation, revocation, ending or refusal to renew the international protection status (Article 43(2)).

[3] This includes immediate information in writing on the grounds of detention as well as the right to appeal and to free legal aid (Article 35-B(2)); information on the internal rules of the detention facility and the detainee’s rights and duties (Article 35-B(5)).

[4] This includes information on mandatory legal representation (Article 79(1)); information on the purpose, potential consequences and preparation of the personal interview by the legal representative (Article 79(4)); information on the submission to an age assessment expertise (Article 79(7)).

[5] Article 49(1)(d) Asylum Act.

[6] Articles 14(2), 24(2) and (5), 29(6), 33(6), 35-B(2) and (5), 37(2), 43(2), 49(1)(a), (b) and (2) and 66 Asylum Act.

[7] SEF, Informação para Requerentes de Proteção Internacional em Portugal, available in Portuguese at: https://bit.ly/2MoTRez.

[8] SEF, Acolhimento em Portugal, available in Portuguese at: https://bit.ly/2MkBnvC.

[9] SEF, Regulamento Dublin III, available in Portuguese at: https://bit.ly/2Hq5aEy.

[10] SEF, Informação para Menores Não-Acompanhados Requerentes de Proteção Internacional em Portugal, available in Portuguese at: https://bit.ly/2FFVjc3.

[11] Article 37(2) Asylum Act.

[12] Portuguese Ombudsman, Tratamento de Cidadãos Estrangeiros em situação irregular ou requerentes de asilo nos centros de instalação temporária ou espaços equiparados, September 2017, available in Portuguese at: http://bit.ly/2z15JPu, Chapter II, Section 9.

[13] Portuguese Ombudsman, Mecanismo Nacional de Prevenção – Relatório à Assembleia da República 2018, 30 May 2019, available in Portuguese at: https://bit.ly/2XTmicn.   

[14] Article 28(2) Asylum Act.

 

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation