Conditions in reception facilities


Country Report: Conditions in reception facilities Last updated: 12/05/23


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The main forms 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] ISS has laid down specific rules for 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 in the internal regulations of each facility.

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 integration-related 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 that of the common kitchen.

According to the current reception strategy, in general, spontaneous asylum seekers are initially accommodated at CAR (until October 2022, 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 2022 stood at 225 days.

The official capacity of CACR stands at 14 places but the existing gap in specialised reception capacity has 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 (both as a measure of last resort in the case of capacity shortages, and in a process of growing autonomy for young applicants at more advanced stages of the integration process); 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]

Absconding and the subsequent risk of human trafficking remain relevant concerns. A total of 12 out of 65 (18%) unaccompanied children accommodated by CPR absconded in 2022[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).

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]

Access to adequate housing is identified as a major issue within the national context by asylum seekers, refugees and NGOs.[8] Factors such as high prices, and contractual demands including high deposits, need of guarantors and proof of income hinder the capacity of asylum seekers and refugees to access the market directly, and that of frontline service providers to increase reception capacity. Consequently, asylum seekers and refugees often have to resort to overcrowded or sub-standard housing options when accessing the private housing market. [9]




[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 2022.

[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:

[8] In addition to CPR, SCML and JRS also expressed this concern when providing information for the AIDA report.

[9] It should be noted that while these issues are not only specific to applicants and beneficiaries of international protection, factors such as the absence of support networks increase their impact in asylum seeking and refugee families.

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