Forms and levels of material reception conditions


Country Report: Forms and levels of material reception conditions Last updated: 21/05/21


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The Asylum Act provides for a general definition of material reception conditions,[1] as well as a closed list of forms of provision of material reception conditions in Article 57(1) that includes:

  1. Housing;[2]
  2. Food;
  3. Monthly social support allowance for food, clothing, transport, and hygiene items;
  4. Monthly complementary allowance for housing; and
  5. Monthly complementary allowance for personal expenses and transport.

Additionally, Article 57(3) establishes a closed list of possible combinations of forms of material reception conditions that consist of:

  1. Housing and food in kind with a [monthly] complementary allowance for personal expenses and transportation; and
  2. Housing in kind or complementary allowance for housing with a social support allowance [for food, clothing, transportation and hygiene items].

However, asylum seekers may exceptionally be offered forms and combinations of material reception conditions other than those provided in the law for a limited period of time where: (i) there is a need for an initial assessment of the special needs of the applicant; (ii) the housing in kind as per the law is not available in the area where the asylum seeker is located; and/or (iii) available reception capacity is temporarily exhausted and/or the international protection applicants are detained at a border that is not equipped housing declared as equivalent to reception centres.[3]

While the Asylum Act enshrines the right of asylum seekers to the satisfaction of their basic needs to a level that guarantees their human dignity,[4] it does not provide for specific criteria to determine what is an adequate standard of living which guarantees their subsistence and protects their physical and mental health as per Article 17(2) of the recast Reception Conditions Directive.

The specific criteria for establishing the value of the financial allowances consists of a percentage of the “social support allowance”,[5] which to date has been interpreted by the ISS as referring to the social pension (pensão social).[6] These percentages represent the upper limit of the allowances.

While ISS confirmed that the amounts of the financial allowances granted by the entity was updated in 2020 (following the update of the social pension, as per the usual practice), according to SCML, the amounts of the financial allowances granted by the organisation to persons under its care remained the same as in 2019. .[7] As such, in 2020, the following applied:

Level of financial allowances per expense: 2020
Type of monthly allowance Percentage Amount
Social support allowance for food, clothing, transport and hygiene items 70% € 148.25 € 147.22
Complementary allowance for housing 30% € 63.54 € 63.10
Complementary allowance for personal expenses and transport 30% € 63.54 € 63.10

In practice, asylum seekers referred by SEF to CPR in the framework of admissibility procedures (including Dublin) and accelerated procedures on the territory benefit from housing at CAR or in other facilities (e.g. hostels, apartments or rooms in private accommodation) provided by CPR (see Types of Accommodation), along with a monthly allowance of  € 150 per adult, € 50 per child below the age of four, and  € 75 per child over the age of four to cover food and transport expenses.

CPR’s Social Department provides asylum seekers with second-hand clothes as well as food items as needed and/or weekly with the support of the Food Bank (Banco Alimentar), a charity organisation that supports social institutions by providing food items to be distributed to final beneficiaries. Depending on the individual circumstances, CPR also pays for: (i) medication due to problems related to access to State funded medication through the National Health Service (Serviço Nacional de Saúde, SNS) or non-funded medication; (ii) school supplies for children; (iii) differentiated health care, e.g., dentists; and (iv) taxi transportation, e.g., in case of a medical emergency or for particularly vulnerable individuals.

In the case of unaccompanied children in the regular procedure and at appeal stage, CPR provides for material reception conditions in kind such as housing, food, clothing, transportation, school supplies, sports activities, haircuts, as well as a monthly allowance for personal needs that varies according to age: € 10 for children up to the age of 10; € 12 for children between the age of 11 and 14; and €16 for children aged 15 and over. Unaccompanied young people in pre-autonomy stage are responsible for managing their own monthly allowance of €150.

In the regular procedure or pending an appeal against a rejection decision during the admissibility stage or in an accelerated procedure, the financial allowance provided by ISS and by SCML is expected to cover all expenses. SCML provides an additional monthly support in cases of severe economic vulnerability (which are often linked to the extremely high costs of accommodation). In 2020, 62 applicants were covered by this measure.[8] ISS has also confirmed that in 2020 it has provided further support for housing expenses (first two months of rent upon presentation of a lease proposal) and that, when deemed justified following assessment, additional support for housing and other expenses can be granted.

The monthly allowance for all expenses is calculated in accordance with the percentages of the social pension set out in the Asylum Act,[9] as mentioned above, albeit with a regressive percentage per additional member of the household.

While in previous years, the amount of the allowances granted by ISS and SCML was the same, according to the information provided by the organisations, this was not the case in 2020. According to ISS, an audit carried out in 2020 concluded that the “social support allowance for food, clothing, transport and hygiene items” could not, according to Article 57(3) of the Asylum Act, be combined with the “complementary allowance for personal expenses and transport”. According to the information provided by SCML, the amounts of the financial allowances were the same that applied in 2019. Consequently, the amounts applied were as follows:

Level of ISS / SCML financial allowance for all expenses: 2020
Category of applicant Amount
Head of household € 211.79 € 273.42
Other adult(s) in household € 148.25 € 191.39
Child € 105.90 € 136.71

Financial allowances for asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection in the regular procedure and in appeal saw a sharp decrease in 2012 during the financial crisis and the reasoning of ISS since has been to bring them strictly in line to those provided in the law to destitute nationals. According to the law, the social pension constitutes a measure of solidarity to offer social protection to the most vulnerable populations.[10]

Even though no qualitative research has been conducted to date on destitution of asylum seekers in the asylum procedure, the current level of financial allowances is manifestly low and CPR’s Social Department receives regular complaints from asylum seekers at all stages of the asylum procedure regarding financial difficulties to meet basic needs and anxiety regarding low levels of income, although short of outright destitution. Such difficulties might constitute a contributing factor to the level of absconding and cessation of support (see Reduction or Withdrawal of Reception Conditions).

Following a resolution passed by the Parliament in June 2017 recommending the publication of an evaluation report of the Portuguese reception policy for refugees,[11] the Government opted for a more limited assessment of the national relocation programme leaving out the reception system for spontaneous asylum seekers. The report, coordinated and drafted by ACM, collected inputs from 39 hosting entities and 1 refugee community organisation and was completed in December 2017.[12] The evaluation conducted by ACM is based on a set of general indicators drawn from the priority areas of the Working Group’s national plan for the reception and integration of relocated persons. Despite the general acknowledgement of some challenges, the overall evaluation of the programme is positive. However, the results presented regarding reception and integration conditions are based on very general quantitative indicators and provide limited qualitative information.[13] The qualitative information presented in the report is mostly based on the consultation conducted with hosting and refugee community organisations and points to challenges such as insufficient financial support and the need for longer reception programmes; gaps in pre and post departure information; lack of translators; and insufficient and ill adapted language training as well as insufficient vocational training opportunities.

Parliament resolution no. 292/2018 recommended the publication of a yearly report on the national asylum policy. In May 2020, in response to this recommendation, the Observatory for Migration (OM)[14] published its first Statistical Report of Asylum (2020).[15] The report identifies challenges and issues recommendations with regard to adequate monitoring of the asylum system, as well as challenges inherent to the asylum policy. The report covers spontaneous asylum seekers, relocated asylum seekers (within the different programmes), and resettled refugees. With regards to reception within the context of relocation/resettlement, the report observes that 34.4% of the applicants/beneficiaries that concluded their reception programmes between 2017 and 2019 were deemed autonomous, thus not requiring further referral to support by ISS/SCML.



[1] Article 2(1)(e) Asylum Act: housing, food, clothing and transportation offered in kind, through financial allowances, vouchers or daily allowances.

[2] Under Article 57(2), housing and food in kind can consist of: (a) housing declared as equivalent to reception centres for asylum seekers in the case of border applications; (b) installation centres for asylum seekers or other types of housing declared equivalent to installation centres for asylum seekers that offer adequate living conditions; and (c) private houses, apartments, hotels, or other forms of housing adapted to accommodate asylum seekers.

[3]  Article 57(4) Asylum Act.

[4] Article 56(1) Asylum Act.

[5] Article 58 Asylum Act.

[6] In 2020, the value of the social pension stood at € 211.79/ month – Decree-Law 464/80 and Ministerial Order 28/2020.

[7] In 2019, the value of the social pension stood at €210.32/month – Decree-Law 464/80 and Ministerial Order 25/2019.

[8] Moreover, according to information provided by SCML, the organisation also allows asylum seekers under its care to access its healthcare units in accordance with medical needs.

[9] Article 58 Asylum Act.

[10] Preamble to Decree-Law 464/80 regarding the social pension that refers to “improving social protection for the most destitute”. The social pension is provided among others to nationals, who are not entitled to a pension from the contributory social security system who lack any revenue or whose revenue is below the value of the social pension (Article 1).

[11] Resolução da Assembleia da República n.º 167/2017 Recomenda ao Governo a publicação de um relatório de avaliação da política portuguesa de acolhimento de refugiados, available in Portuguese at:

[12] ACM, Relatório de Avaliação da Política Portuguesa de Acolhimento de Pessoas Refugiadas, Programa de Recolocação, December 2017, unpublished.

[13] The indicators used included a 100% rate regarding registration with the SNS and access to medical care; 98% access to Portuguese language classes; around 80% access of children to education; around 80% first instance decisions on the asylum application; 29 births on the territory; 50% of persons in working age that remained in Portugal in training or employment; around 90% and 80% of persons granted fiscal identification numbers and social security numbers.

[14]  The OM is a team of ACM focusing on the study of migrations. For more, see

[15] Observatory for Migration, Entrada, Acolhimento e Integração de Requerentes e Beneficiários de Protecção Internacional em Portugal – Relatório Estatístico do Asilo 2020, May 2020, available in Portuguese at:

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