Conditions in reception facilities


Country Report: Conditions in reception facilities Last updated: 26/05/22


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The main form of accommodation used during admissibility, including Dublin, and accelerated procedures on the national territory are CPR’s (funded) private accommodation and reception centres. As regards the regular procedure, private accommodation is usually used (see Types of Accommodation). There is currently no regular monitoring of the reception system in place.

ISS is among the competent authorities for licensing, monitoring and providing technical support to the operation of reception centres for asylum seekers.[1] The applicable rules to collective accommodation facilities have been laid down by ISS regarding temporary reception centres for children at risk (such as CACR).[2] Furthermore, the law provides for specific standards regarding housing in kind for asylum seekers,[3] and children at risk such as unaccompanied children.[4] The specific material reception standards relevant to CAR and CACR are foreseen in the underlying bilateral MOUs (see Types of Accommodation) and their internal regulations.

CAR is composed of shared rooms with dedicated bathrooms/toilets and is equipped to accommodate asylum seekers with mobility constraints, e.g., it includes a lift and adapted bathrooms/toilets. The residents are expected to cook their own meals in a communal kitchen and have access to common fridges and cupboards. The centre also has a laundry service, a playground, a day-care/kindergarten for resident and local community children, as well as a library connected to the municipal library system and a theatre/event space that can be rented out.

The centre provides psychosocial and legal assistance, Portuguese language training, socio-cultural activities, as well as job search support (see Access to the Labour Market). Logistical support staff is present 24 hours a day and the overall cleaning of the centre is carried out by a private company, though the residents are expected to contribute to the cleaning of their room and the common kitchen.

According to the current reception strategy, in general, spontaneous asylum seekers are initially accommodated at CAR (after testing negative for COVID-19) for an initial period of 2 to 3 weeks during which social and health needs are identified and information on the host country is provided. Afterwards, the applicant generally moves to another accommodation with the support of CPR (either a hostel, apartment, or room in the private market). Vulnerable applicants remain in CAR if deemed appropriate. Support continues to be ensured by CPR’s team.

CACR offers unaccompanied children appropriate housing and reception conditions regardless of the stage of the asylum procedure. Given the specific needs and contexts involved, the average stay in 2021 stood at 320 days. The official  capacity stands at 14 places but the existing gap in specialised reception capacity has also resulted in overcrowding that has been partially averted by: changing arrangements in rooms to expand capacity while preserving adequate accommodation standards; resorting to separate accommodation of unaccompanied children above the age of 16 at the CAR and CAR 2, supervised by the Family and Juvenile Court; and, depending on the individual circumstances, promoting the placement of children above the age of 16 in supervised private housing by decision of the Family and Juvenile Court in line with the protective measures enshrined in the Youths at Risk Protection Act.[5]

Furthermore, CPR revisited its accommodation policy for unaccompanied children in 2019. While some may be provisionally accommodated at CAR due to shortage of places at CACR or to the need to wait for COVID-19 test results, young applicants at more advanced stages of the integration process may be transferred to CAR 2 in a process of progressive autonomy.

Absconding and the subsequent risk of human trafficking remain relevant concerns. A total of 9 out of 59 (15.3%) unaccompanied children accommodated by CPR absconded in 2021[6] (see Special Reception Needs). CACR’s team reports cases where unaccompanied children were suspected to be victims of human trafficking to the competent authorities (see Guarantees for Vulnerable Groups: Identification).

Throughout 2021, the coronavirus pandemic continued to create reception challenges. While the continuity of services was ensured throughout the year, a number of adjustments were implemented in relevant facilities to mitigate risks and ensure protection, namely:

  • Admission to reception centres managed by CPR/transition to accommodation provided by other entities was preceded by a negative COVID-19 test result;
  • Personal protection equipment such as masks, and information on contingency measures continued to be provided to applicants;
  • Suitable solutions to persons particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 (such as newborn babies or persons with medical conditions) was provided;
  • The number of participants in group activities was reduced.

As mentioned in Freedom of Movement, no research has been conducted to date on the impact of the dispersal component of the reception policy. According to information collected by CPR, there have not been systemic problems regarding the quality of private housing provided upon dispersal. However, there are difficulties in securing private housing in the Lisbon area with conditions that are up to the standard. More recently, the lack of affordable housing in other areas of the country has been also reported by the entities involved in the provision of reception conditions to applicants for international protection.

A study focusing on the situation of asylum-seeking unaccompanied children and ageing out in Portugal published in 2021 revealed, inter alia, that the children and young people involved reported challenges related to the cultural and religious diversity of those living in reception centres, as well as difficulties in adjusting to different alimentary practices. Some of those questioned also highlighted difficulties in transitioning to autonomous living due to financial hurdles and, when dispersed to locations outside the Lisbon area, social isolation.[7]

[1] Decree-Law No 64/2007.

[2] These rules are contained among others in technical guidelines that provide for quality standards on issues such as capacity, duration of stay, composition and technical skills of staff, hygiene and security standards, location and connectivity, access to the building, construction materials, composition and size of the building, internal regulation, personal integration plans, activities planning, reporting and evaluation etc. An earlier version from 1996 is available at: According to the information available at:, the ISS has also adopted quality standards for other temporary reception centres (such as the CAR and the CATR) contained in technical guidelines dated 29 November 1996 (unpublished).

[3] Article 59 Asylum Act: protection of family life, including the unity of children and parents/legal representatives; right to contact relatives and representatives of UNHCR and CPR; adoption of adequate measures by the management of the facility to prevent violence, and notably sexual and gender-based violence.

[4] Articles 52-54 Children and Youth at Risk Protection Act.

[5] Act 147/99.

[6] These figures include unaccompanied children who applied for asylum before 2020.

[7]  Sandra Roberto, Carla Moleiro, ed. Observatório das Migrações, De menor a maior: acolhimento e autonomia de vida em menores não acompanhados, April 2021, pp.53 et seq, available 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