Overview of the main changes since the previous report update


Country Report: Overview of the main changes since the previous report update Last updated: 26/05/22


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The report was previously updated in May 2021.


Background information

As previously reported, in 2020, the Government announced its intention to conduct a structural reform of SEF. The main piece of legislation governing this reform was approved in November 2021.[1] It provides for the reallocation of SEF’s competencies to existing or new entities:

  • The National Republican Guard (Guarda Nacional Republicana, GNR) will be in charge of the surveillance and control of maritime and land borders, and will be responsible for executing expulsion decisions within its jurisdiction;[2]
  • The Public Security Police (Polícia de Segurança Pública, PSP) will be in charge of the surveillance and control of air borders, and will be responsible for executing expulsion decisions within its jurisdiction;[3]
  • The Criminal Police (Polícia Judiciária, PJ) will investigate crimes related to illegal migration and trafficking in human beings; [4]
  • The administrative competencies of SEF will be allocated to the Institute of Registries and Notary (Instituto dos Registos e Notariado, IRN) and to a new entity to be created, the Portuguese Agency for Migration and Asylum (Agência Portuguesa para as Migrações e Asilo, APMA). The IRN will be responsible for foreigners with a residence permit and for the issuance of travel documents. APMA will be the entity in charge of the implementation of public policies related to migration and asylum and to issue opinions on requests for visas, applications for asylum and resettlement.[5]
  • Regular training on human rights, migration law and asylum law is to be provided to the officers of PSP, GNR, PJ and IRN.[6]

While the law was initially expected to entry into force in January 2022, it was amended in December 2021 and, at the time of writing, was due to enter into force in May 2022.[7] At the time of writing, APMA had not been created yet.

In July 2021, the Portuguese Government adopted the National Plan to Combat Racism and Discrimination 2021-2025.[8] According to media reports, the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, held a press conference following its visit to Portugal in December 2021, where, inter alia, it showed concern with racial discrimination and with the respect for the human rights of people of African descent in the country.[9]

According to the yearly report of the Ombudsperson to the Parliament published in 2021, the number of complaints received by the entity regarding the rights of foreign citizens registered a sharp increase in 2020.[10]

According to the information provided by UNHCR, a total of 299 refugees were resettled to Portugal in the course of 2021. Out of these, 116 were resettled from Egypt, and 183 from Turkey. The majority of those resettled were Syrians, but nationals from Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and Iraq were also resettled to Portugal.

In 2021, Portugal participated in the evacuation of Afghan citizens. In August, the Government announced the country’s availability to host Afghans who have collaborated with Portuguese military forces deployed to Afghanistan, persons who have collaborated with EU, NATO and UN missions in the country.[11] Specific references to vulnerable cases (e.g., women and girls) were also made by Government officials. A total of 768 applications for international protection have been made during the year within this context.

According to the newspaper Público, an inquiry conducted by the Inspectorate General of Home Affairs (Inspecção-Geral da Administração Interna, IGAI) concluded that the events that led to the death of a Ukrainian citizen at the EECIT Lisbon in March 2020 were not a sign of a systemic problem within SEF. Nevertheless, the Inspectorate General recommended that further inquiries and disciplinary procedures should be conducted following its investigation. According to the same source, the recommendation was accepted by the then Minister of Home Affairs.[12]

With regards to the situation of persons fleeing the war in Ukraine, on 1 March 2022, the Council of Ministers adopted a Resolution establishing the criteria for granting of temporary protection for displaced people from Ukraine.[13] The approval of such a Resolution triggered the application of the temporary protection regime.[14] The Resolution was subsequently amended in order to widen the personal scope of application (and to bring it in line with the Council decision on the same issue).

As such, the following persons are entitled to temporary protection in Portugal:

  • Ukrainian nationals and beneficiaries of international protection in Ukraine, coming from Ukraine, and that cannot return due to the war;
  • Other third country nationals or stateless persons who are in the same conditions as those above and that can prove either that they are related to the persons referred to above, or that they were permanent residents in Ukraine/had a temporary residence permit in the country/had a long-term visa in order to obtain such a permit and whose durable return to their country of origin is not possible.

Registration for temporary protection can be performed in person or online.[15]

According to the Resolution of the Council of Ministers, the application for temporary protection is immediately communicated to the relevant authorities for the issuance of national healthcare system number, tax number and social security number. Employment registration with the relevant national entity is also automatic. The Resolution further establishes that accommodation and subsistence allowances should be granted to beneficiaries that do not have sufficient financial resources of their own, and that access to social security is processed under the rules applicable to refugees.[16] An assessment of the functioning of the implementation of this regime is not yet available.


Asylum procedure


  • Applicants for international protection: A total of 1,537 applications for international protection were registered in Portugal in 2021 SEF (including 270 made by persons relocated to Portugal). While this reflected a return to pre-pandemic figures (in 2019 there were 1,849 applications registered), a significant part of the total refers to persons evacuated from Afghanistan and admitted to Portugal (768) and persons relocated to the country (279). As such, the number of spontaneous applications remained comparatively low, which is likely still connected to the restrictions upon international travel linked to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • General: A number of decisions from the Central Administrative Court South (Tribunal Central Administrativo Sul, TCA South) issued in 2021 focused on the right of the applicant to request legal aid in order to have a lawyer present during the interview. According to the analysed decisions, the Court overall considers that: (i) applicants for international protection may request legal aid in order to have a lawyer present in the asylum interview;[17] (ii) the performance of an asylum interview without a lawyer present per se does not violate the Portuguese Constitution;[18] (iii) to effectively guarantee the applicant’s rights, the authority (SEF) must fully and correctly inform the applicant of the possibility of being accompanied by a lawyer in the interview and of applying to legal aid for that purpose. If that does not happen, the decision on the asylum application may be annulled.[19] According to the available information, at the time of writing, the appeal of one such case was pending in the Supreme Administrative Court (STA).[20] According to the information provided by High Council of Administrative and Fiscal Courts (Conselho Superior dos Tribunais Administrativos e Fiscais, CSTAF), in early 2022, the Working Group for Administrative and Fiscal Justice, created by the Ministry of Justice, proposed an amendment to the Statute of the Administrative and Fiscal Courts that would allow CSTAF to create specialised sections in the Administrative Courts, namely in the field of asylum. In order for this to be implemented, the Statute would have to be amended and the CSTAF would then have to deliberate on the creation of the relevant section.
  • Border procedure: While applications for international protection at the border have taken place in 2021, according to CPR’s experience, and despite some unclear instances, such applicants have been granted entry into national territory, referred to the provision of reception conditions if needed, and their cases were not subject to the rules applicable to the border procedure. SEF affirmed that the border procedure has not been applied in 2021. At the time of writing, it remained unclear whether this is temporary or will become permanent practice and whether it will apply to all national border posts.
  • Vulnerable applicants: In addition to the existing general national referral mechanism for victims of trafficking in human beings, in 2021 the national “Protocol for the definition of procedures aimed at the Prevention, Detection and Protection of (presumed) children victims of Trafficking in Human Beings – National Referral Mechanism” was launched.[21] The new referral mechanism, comprising nine practical tools, aims to establish specific procedures, to reinforce cooperation and communication among professionals and to ensure respect for the best interests of the child.[22] One of the practical tools focus on identification at the border, explaining the referral and identification procedures together with relevant indicators.


Reception conditions


  • Responsibility for reception: Within the framework of the Single Operative Group (SOG), three subgroups have been created so far to handle operational matters: the social monitoring subgroup, the unaccompanied children subgroup, and the programmed arrivals subgroup. The social monitoring subgroup replaced the previous structure for referral and follow up on the provision of reception conditions to spontaneous asylum seekers. The group is composed by ACM, CPR, ISS, SCML and SEF, and meets twice a month. The extended line-up of the SOG meets once a month.
  • Vulnerable applicants: A study focusing on the situation of asylum-seeking unaccompanied children and ageing out in Portugal published in 2021 states, inter alia, that the analysis conducted reveals the lack of a national strategy for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.[23]


Content of international protection


  • Cessation of international protection: In 2021, a total of 36 cessation of subsidiary protection decisions were adopted by the national authorities, mostly concerning Ukrainian citizens (13). According to the information provided by SEF, in 2021, cessation of refugee status also occurred (while extremely rare). CPR was not aware of prior cessation decisions concerning refugee status. CPR continued to observe significant shortcomings in cessation procedures.
  • Integration: A study published in 2021 focusing on the role and practices of reception entities in the integration of refugees concluded, inter alia, that Portugal has not developed a structured plan for reception and integration of refugees, identified a number of coordination issues, and challenges faced by frontline service providers, and recommended that such a policy should be created.[24]




[1] Act n. 73/2021 of 12 November 2021 approving the restructure of the Portuguese system of border control, reshaping the regime of the forces and services responsible for internal security and establishing other rules for the redistribution of competences and resources of the Immigration and Borders Service, amended by Act n. 89/2021 of 16 December 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3OitRkJ.

[2] Article 2 Act n. 73/2021 of 12 November 2021.

[3] Article 2 Act n. 73/2021 of 12 November 2021.

[4] Article 2 Act n. 73/2021 of 12 November 2021.

[5] Article 3 Act n. 73/2021 of 12 November 2021.

[6] Article 12 Act n. 73/2021 of 12 November 2021.

[7] Article 15 Act n. 73/2021 of 12 November 2021.

[8] Resolution of the Council of Ministers no.101/2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3yIJblp. The National Plan is available in English at: https://bit.ly/3Pmzpey.

[9] See, for instance, Público, Peritos da ONU surpreendidos com relatos de brutalidade policial sobre pessoas africanas em Portugal, 6 December 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3ysNRf1.

[10] Ombudsman, Relatório à Assembleia da República 2020, June 2021, p.134, available at: https://bit.ly/3tMTmmc.

[11] See, for instance: Expresso, Afeganistão: Portugal participa na mobilização internacional de apoio a refugiados, 15 August 2021, available at_https://bit.ly/36EvmbY.

[12] Público, Caso Ihor: IGAI conclui que agressões não são um ‘problema transversal’ no SEF, 21 January 2022, available at [full access limited to subscribers]: https://bit.ly/3FEYX1V.

[13] Resolution of the Council of Ministers no.29-A/2022 of 1st March 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3vRYoie

[14] Act no. 67/2003 of 23 August 2003 (Temporary Protection Act, available at https://bit.ly/3sOxKVV).

[15] The online registration platform is available at: https://sefforukraine.sef.pt/.

[16] For further and up to date information, see www.portugalforukraine.org.pt. The government also created a platform focusing on the situation unaccompanied children (available at https://bit.ly/3FBSAwu).

[17] TCA South, Decision 2285/20.7BELSB, 21 April 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3tQAjHc.

[18] Ibid.

[19] TCA South, Decision 806/21.7BELSB, 23 September 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3iQyns9; TCA South, Decision 2144/20.3BELSB, 7 October 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3IR83IZ.

[20] STA, Decision 02144/20.3BELSB, 25 November 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3xJcWC6.

[21] OTSH (coord.), Protocolo para a definição de procedimentos de atuação destinado à prevenção, deteção e proteção de crianças (presumíveis) vítimas de tráfico de seres humanos – Sistema de Referenciação Nacional, May 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3k3BXQh

[22] The tools focus on: 1. Guiding principles of children’s protective intervention; 2. Overall indicators and types of exploitation by indicators. 3. Detection in National Territory. 4. Detection at External Borders. 5. Procedures for assessing the child’s age. 6. Appointment of Tutor or Legal Representative. 7. Assistance, Sheltering, (Re) Integration and Return. 8. Rights of children victims of Trafficking in Human Beings. 9. Training Module.

[23] Sandra Roberto, Carla Moleiro, ed. Observatório das Migrações, De menor a maior: acolhimento e autonomia de vida em menores não acompanhados, April 2021, p.60, available at: https://bit.ly/3fqMKBK.

[24] Lúcio Sousa, Paulo M. Costa, Rosana Albuquerque, Olga Magano, Bárbara Backstrom, ed. Observatório das Migrações, Integração de Refugiados em Portugal: o papel e práticas das instituições de acolhimento, March 2021, pp.97 et seq, available at: https://bit.ly/3qqrgv8.

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