Place of detention


Country Report: Place of detention Last updated: 12/05/23


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The legal framework of detention centres is enshrined in Act 34/94 which provides for the detention of migrants in Temporary Installation Centres (Centros de Instalação Temporária, CIT) managed by SEF, either for security reasons (e.g., aimed at enforcing a removal from national territory) or for irregular entry at the border. Detention facilities at the border (EECIT),[1] which are not CIT per se, have been classified as such by Decree-Law 85/2000 for the purposes of detention following a refusal of entry at the border.[2]

Detention capacity in border detention centres: 2022
Detention centre[3] Total capacity
Detention facility – Lisbon airport 24

Source: Information provided by SEF (April 2023). This refers to the total capacity of the detention centre and is thus not limited to asylum seekers specifically.


According to information previously provided by SEF, CIT-UHSA has an overall capacity for 30 persons. Within the current context, CIT-UHSA is the facility where the majority of asylum seekers is detained. As far as CPR is aware, the facility does not have dedicated places for asylum seekers.

CPR is unaware of the detention of asylum seekers in police stations or in regular prisons for the purposes of the asylum procedure.

According to the 2020 report of the National Preventive Mechanism, the construction of a new CIT in Almoçageme (CATA) was halted by judicial order[4] and the construction of another CIT in Guarda was planned.[5] According to the 2021 report, the construction of the CATA has been abandoned.[6] Further information on the construction of a CIT in Guarda is not available.

In 2021, the Ministry of Home Affairs referred to the possibility of requalifying an area of the Caxias Prison to be used as a CIT.[7] This project was strongly criticised by civil society organisations,[8] and ended up being abandoned by the Government.[9]

The 2021 report of the National Preventive Mechanism also refers to the detention of a group of migrants in a Military Facility in 2021.[10] Within this context, the Ombudsperson has mentioned the need to create further facilities, namely in the south and centre areas of the country. As per the report, SEF has indicated to the National Preventive Mechanism that a new CIT will be built in Almancil.[11]

According to the same source, SEF also signed a protocol providing for the creation of a hotspot in the port of Vila Real de Santo António.[12] This facility would be meant to provide immediate support to persons arriving by sea in the coast of Algarve with the support of the Portuguese Red Cross. As underlined in the 2021 report, despite the limited information available in this regard, in light of previous experiences with such facilities within the European Union and particularly given the low number of sea arrivals that has been experienced in the past, this does not seem to be an appropriate solution. In the meantime, the Ombudsperson, has also expressed concern with this project, namely due the unavailability of information, the lack of clarity of the facility’s purpose, and the lack of physical conditions of the space (namely for being too small and for lacking outdoor areas). The Ombudsperson recommended the authorities to reconsider the adoption of this plan.[13] No further information was available at the time of writing.

The possible expansion of CIT-UHSA has also been addressed by the National Preventive Mechanism in its report covering 2021. The entity expressed concern with reports that the expansion will be implemented through the addition of prefabricated housing containers to the facility’s outdoor area.[14]

A project of €1,560,000 submitted by SEF to FAMI was approved in July 2020. The project aims to ‘reinforce the quality of temporary installation centres with adequate spaces, namely for families and vulnerable groups, and services of social, legal, linguistic, and health assistance’.[15]

SEF did not provide AIDA with any information regarding any of these projects or on new detention facilities that may be used to detain applicants for international protection.




[1] Council of Ministers Resolution 76/97.

[2] See also Council of Ministers Resolution 76/97. In this context, it is important to underline, as recalled by the Ombudsperson: “The confinement of foreign citizens, including where it takes place in the international area of an airport, indeed consists in a deprivation of freedom (…) that goes beyond a mere restriction of freedom. On this matter cf. the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights n. º 19776/92, 25 June 1992 (Amuur v France).” Ombudsman, Tratamento dos cidadãos estrangeiros em situação irregular ou requerentes de asilo nos centros de instalação temporária ou espaços equiparados, September 2017, available in Portuguese at: fn. 14 [unofficial translation].

[3] According to the information provided by SEF, as in 2021, the detention facilities located in the international áreas of Porto and Faro airports remained closed in 2022.

[4] Ombudsman, ‘Mecanismo Nacional de Prevenção, Relatório à Assembleia da República’, June 2020, 50, available at: The National Preventive Mechanism conducted a preventive visit to the facility in 2019. The conditions observed are described in the report (p. 56-58).

[5] Ibid, 58.

[6] Ombudsman, ‘Mecanismo Nacional de Prevenção, Relatório à Assembleia da República’, 24 June 2021, available at:, 107.

[7] See, for instance, TVI, Exclusivo TVI: centro do SEF vai ser na prisão de Caxias. Cabrita envolvido em nova polémica, 16 june 2021, available at:

[8] See, for instance, ONG’s exigem a revogação do protocolo de detenção administrativa de migrantes na prisão de Caxias, 21 june 2021, available at:

[9] See, for instance, TSF/Lusa, MAI suspende reconversão de ala da prisão de Caxias em centro para imigrantes, 8 July 2021, available at: This plan was also strongly criticised by the Ombudsperson in its report covering 2021, namely dur to the lack of public transportation to the area, to the physical features of the space, the lack of adequate conditions for the administrative detention of migrants. See Ombudsman, Mecanismo Nacional de Prevenção – Relatório à Assembleia da República 2021, July 2022, pp.76-77,available at:

[10] Ombudsman, ‘Mecanismo Nacional de Prevenção, Relatório à Assembleia da República’, 24 June 2021, pp.99 et seq, available at: 

[11] Ibid, pp. 106 et seq.

[12] Ibid, pp. 106 et seq,

[13] Ombudsman, Mecanismo Nacional de Prevenção – Relatório à Assembleia da República 2021, July 2022, pp.77-78, available at:

[14]  Ombudsman, Mecanismo Nacional de Prevenção – Relatório à Assembleia da República 2021, July 2022, p.74, available at:

[15] Secretaria-Geral do Ministério da Administração Interna, Autoridade Responsável do FAMI – SGMAI aprova candidatura no âmbito do OE3 – REGRESSO – OE3.ON1–Medidas de Acompanhamento, 6 July 2020, available at: (Unofficial translation).

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