Conditions in reception facilities


Country Report: Conditions in reception facilities Last updated: 30/11/20


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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 and in the case of relocation, private accommodation is usually used (see Types of Accommodation). There is currently no regular monitoring of the reception system.

ISS is among the competent authorities for the licensing, the monitoring and the provision of 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.

The average stay at the CAR was of around 5 months as ongoing problems in the transition into private housing provided by the ISS and SCML tend to extend the stay well beyond the duration of the admissibility (including Dublin) and accelerated procedures on the national territory (see Types of Accommodation). The official capacity stands at 52 places. However, existing gaps in centralised reception capacity have resulted in chronic overcrowding that has been partially averted by resorting to the private housing market (hostels, rooms, apartments) usually in the Municipality of Loures and Lisbon but more recently also in other municipalities (e.g. Torres Vedras, Setúbal) due to shortages in available private accommodation for asylum seekers in the Lisbon district area.

Despite the continuous efforts to accommodate specific needs both at CAR and in external accommodation, systematic overcrowding and renovation works have put severe strains on the living conditions and the access to adequate services. Available staff remains significantly insufficient to address existing needs. This results inter alia in conflicts in the use of the common kitchen and storing spaces, tensions with other residents, thefts, and gaps on access to services such as social and legal assistance or socio-cultural activities.[5]  Since September 2019, a community intervention specialist works directly with families to ensure access to support activities.

As mentioned in Types of accommodation, CPR had to suspend the provision of reception of new adult applicants (with the exception of particularly vulnerable applicants such as pregnant women and families with children) between the end of August and October 2019 due to overcrowding of CAR and cash flow issues hindering  reception in hostels and private accommodation.

CACR is also composed of shared rooms with dedicated bathrooms/toilets and is equally equipped to accommodate asylum seekers with mobility constraints. A resident cook is responsible for the provision of meals in line with the nutritional needs of children, although children are sometimes allowed to cook their own meals under supervision. The centre also has a laundry service, a playground and a small library, and provides psychosocial and legal assistance, Portuguese language training and socio-cultural activities. Children accommodated at CACR are systematically enrolled in local schools or in vocational training programmes. In 2019, the staff of CACR included a social worker, a social educator and support staff, who further receive support from legal officers and a language trainer. There is also logistical support staff present 24 hours a day to ensure the overall functioning of the centre.

CACR offers unaccompanied children appropriate housing and reception conditions for an average stay period of 174 days, regardless of the stage of the asylum procedure. The official capacity stands at 13 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 II, 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.[6]

Although living conditions remain adequate, overcrowding puts a strain on the timing and the quality of support provided. In order to address overcrowding in the facility, CPR revisited its accommodation policy for unaccompanied children in 2019. While some were provisionally accommodated at CAR due to shortage of places at CACR, young applicants at more advanced stages of the integration process were transferred from CACR to CAR II in a process of progressive autonomy.

A relevant concern is absconding, which concerned a total of 29 out of 103 (28%) unaccompanied children accommodated by CPR in 2019[7] and the subsequent risk of human trafficking (see Special Reception Needs). In 2019, CACR’s team continued to report cases where unaccompanied children were suspected to be victims of human trafficking to the Observatory on Trafficking in Human Beings.

As mentioned in Freedom of Movement, no research has been conducted to date on the impact of the dispersal component of the reception policy implemented by the GTO. 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.


[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] Italian Council for Refugees et al., Time for Needs: Listening, Healing, Protecting, October 2017, available at:

[6]  Act 147/99.

[7]These figures include unaccompanied children who applied for asylum before 2019.


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