Forms and levels of material reception conditions


Country Report: Forms and levels of material reception conditions Last updated: 30/11/20


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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 and in 2019 consisted of the following:

Level of financial allowances per expense: 2019

Type of monthly allowance



Social support allowance for food, clothing, transport and hygiene items


€ 147,22

Complementary allowance for housing


€ 63,10

Complementary allowance for personal expenses and transport


€ 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, 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 on a needs basis 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); (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 particular 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 the 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.

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. In the case of SCML there is the possibility of providing additional financial support for medication, school supplies or other needs following an individual assessment.[7]

The monthly allowance for all expenses is calculated in accordance to the percentages of the social pension set out in the Asylum Act,[8] as mentioned above, albeit with a regressive percentage per additional member of the household:

Level of ISS / SCML financial allowance for all expenses: 2019

Category of applicant


Head of household

€ 273,42

Other adult(s) in household

€ 191,39


€ 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.[9]

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 high level of absconding and cessation of support in the regular procedure and in the relocation programme (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,[10] 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.[11] 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 very positive. However, the results presented regarding reception and integration conditions are based on very general quantitative indicators and provide limited qualitative information.[12] 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.


[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 2019 the value of the social pension stood at € 210,32/ month – Decree-Law 464/80 and Ministerial Order 25/2019.

[7] 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.

[8] Article 58 Asylum Act.

[9] Preamble to Law Decree 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).

[10] 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 at:

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

[12] 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.


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