Country Report: General Last updated: 12/05/23


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Since March 2020, detention of asylum seekers predominantly occurs when applicants for international protection were previously detained due to a removal procedure,[1] and in cases where precautionary measures/alerts regarding the person concerned are active. Detention within the context of border procedures was the rule until March 2020 but, since then, such procedures have not been systematically applied.[2] At the time of writing, it is not clear whether this is temporary or will become permanent practice and whether it applies to all national border posts. The border procedure and corresponding detention regime continue to be provided in national law.[3]

While the Asylum Act also provides for the possibility of placing other categories of asylum seekers in detention,[4] including those subjected to Dublin procedures, according to CPR’s experience, these are not used in practice.

The competent authority to place and review the detention of an asylum seeker in a CIT,[5] or in detention facilities at the border,[6] is the Criminal Court with territorial jurisdiction over the place where detention is imposed. In the case of detention at the border, SEF initially imposes detention, but is required to inform the Criminal Court of said detention measure within 48 hours of arrival at the border for the purpose of maintaining the asylum seeker in detention beyond that period.[7]

UNHCR, CPR, legal representatives, and other NGOs have effective access to asylum seekers in detention at the border in accordance with the law.[8] Nevertheless, access to legal information as well as assistance in detention has been hindered by factors such as shorter deadlines, and limited capacity of service providers.

In addition to the impacts of detention, shorter deadlines and reduced procedural guarantees are applicable in the context of procedures conducted while the applicants are detained. These reduced guarantees may give rise to risks of poorer quality decision-making.

Unidade Habitacional de Santo António (CIT – UHSA)[9] is the only temporary installation centre per se currently functioning in Portugal. The  main detention facility at the border is located in the international area of Lisbon airport, and has an overall capacity of 24 places.[10]

SEF reported that a total of 306 asylum seekers have been detained in 2022 within the context of coercive removal procedures/by court order (185 at CIT-UHSA and 121 at EECIT Lisbon).




[1] Article 35-A(3)(b) Asylum Act.

[2] For more information on the change of practice, please revert to the AIDA 2021 report.

[3] The absence of uniform procedures in this area has also been highlighted by the Ombudsperson. See Ombudsman, Mecanismo Nacional de Prevenção – Relatório à Assembleia da República 2021, July 2022, p.78, available at:

[4] Article 35-A(3) Asylum Act.

[5] Article 35-A(5) Asylum Act.

[6] Article 35-A(6) Asylum Act.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Article 49(6) Asylum Act.

[9] Decree-Law 44/2006 provides for the creation and functioning of CIT – UHSA in Porto.

[10] While pre-removal facilities also exist in the airports of Ponta Delgada and Madeira, CPR is unaware of its use for detention of applicants for international protection. According to the information provided by SEF, as in 2021, the detention facilities located in the international areas of Porto and Faro airports remained closed in 2022.

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