Reduction or withdrawal of reception conditions

Portugal

Country Report: Reduction or withdrawal of reception conditions Last updated: 26/05/22

Author

Portuguese Refugee Council Visit Website

The Asylum Act provides for a closed list of grounds that may warrant the reduction or withdrawal of material reception conditions.[1] These consist of unjustifiably:

  1. Abandoning the place of residence determined by the authority without informing SEF or without adequate permission;
  2. Abandoning the place of residence without informing the reception organisation;
  3. Failing to comply with reporting duties;
  4. Failing to provide information that was requested or to appear for personal interviews when summoned;
  5. Concealing financial resources and hence unduly benefiting from material reception conditions; and
  6. Lodging a subsequent application.

For the reduction or withdrawal to be enacted, the behaviour of the applicant needs to be unjustified,[2] implying the need for an individualised assessment of the legality of the decision, which is however not clearly stated in the law. Such decisions must be individual, objective, impartial, and reasoned.[3] The asylum seeker is entitled to appeal the decision under these grounds before an Administrative Court,[4] with suspensive effect,[5] and may benefit from free legal aid to that end.[6] Reception conditions reduced or withdrawn pursuant to grounds (a) to (c) above can be reinstated if the asylum seeker is found or presents him/herself to the authorities.[7]

SEF affirmed that it does not official data on reduction or withdrawal of reception conditions. Nevertheless, CPR is aware of multiple instances where the withdrawal of reception conditions was determined by the entity as per article 60 of the Asylum Act.  CPR is however not aware of the issuance of formal decisions in such cases and the criteria and procedures used in this regard remain unclear. According to the experience of the organisation, where support was suspended because an applicant repeatedly failed to present him/herself as required by SEF, it was reinstated upon appearance.

According to the data provided by ISS, out of the 1,860 persons supported by the entity in 2021, support ended for 186 persons (the grounds are unclear). SCML reported that, from a total of 1,640 persons supported throughout 2021 (including cases from previous years), 388 abandoned the support proprio motu. It cannot be excluded that, in certain instances, such abandonments may be linked to poor living standards offered by material reception conditions.[8]

According to the available information, other instances of cessation of support were connected to situations where the applicant no longer lacked financial resources according to the relevant criteria (see above).[9]

The law does not provide for specific sanctions for seriously violent behaviour or serious breaches of the rules of accommodation centres and other housing provided in the framework of material reception conditions. Nevertheless, service providers are required to adopt adequate measures to prevent violence, and notably sexual and gender-based violence.[10] In the case of CAR, both the Regulation of the centre and the individual contract signed between CPR and the asylum seeker include specific prohibitions of abusive and violent behaviour that can ultimately result in withdrawal of support following an assessment of the individual circumstances and taking into consideration the vulnerability of the applicant.[11] In the case of CACR, while the Regulation contains similar prohibitions and age appropriate remedial action,[12] the accommodation of unaccompanied children stems from and can only be reviewed by the competent Family and Juvenile Court in the framework of the Children and Youths at Risk Protection Act (see Legal Representation of Unaccompanied Children).

In practice, without prejudice to criminal proceedings where relevant, instances of withdrawal of support from CPR following abusive and/or violent behaviour in breach of internal rules remain rare events. For most cases, the consequences consist of transfer into alternative accommodation to ensure the security and well-being of the remaining residents. In the case of unaccompanied children, Family and Juvenile Courts generally prioritise the stability of the living environment,[13] and are extremely reluctant to uproot the child by transfer into another institution.

SCML also reported that it ensures 24/7 surveillance of hostels where applicants are accommodated.

 

 

 

[1] Article 60(3) Asylum Act.

[2] Article 60(3) Asylum Act.

[3] Article 60(5) Asylum Act.

[4] Article 60(8) Asylum Act.

[5] Articles 63(1) and 30(1) Asylum Act.

[6] Article 63(2) Asylum Act.

[7] Article 60(4) Asylum Act.

[8] The rate of absconding in the relocation programme from 2015 to 2017 was also quite significant. See, for instance: Público, ‘Quase metade dos 1500 refugiados que chegaram já deixou Portugal’, 16 October 2017, available in Portuguese at: http://bit.ly/2j8gF7J; News Deeply, ‘Portugal Offers Refugees a Warm Welcome, but Can’t Get Them to Stay’, 1 September 2017, available at: http://bit.ly/2gMuHdW. According to the evaluation report of the relocation programme, on 28 November 2017 the overall rate of absconding stood at 45%: ACM, Relatório de Avaliação da Política Portuguesa de Acolhimento de Pessoas Refugiadas, Programa de Recolocação, December 2017.

[9] Articles 51(1) and 56(1) Asylum Act.

[10] Article 59(1)(e) Asylum Act.

[11] The contract is currently available inter alia in Portuguese, English, French and is otherwise interpreted to the client if not available in a language that he understands.

[12] These include, by order of increasing severity, an oral warning; a reprimand; to execute a repairing task; reduction of pocket money; limitation of authorisations to leave the CACR; restriction of ludic and pedagogical activities, notably with fellow children; and transfer to another institution.

[13] Article 78(2)(e) Asylum Act provides for stability of housing as a contributing factor to upholding the best interests of the child.

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