Types of accommodation


Country Report: Types of accommodation Last updated: 21/05/21


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As mentioned in Freedom of Movement, asylum seekers are generally referred by frontline service providers to the GTO following admission to the regular procedure, or in the case of appeals against negative decisions. At this point the provision of housing is relayed by either local Social Security services for the duration of the regular procedure or by SCML in the Lisbon area at appeal stage.

According to information provided by ISS, asylum seekers are mostly provided with private housing (rented flats/houses and rooms) without prejudice to accommodation provided by relatives in Portugal and collective accommodation such as hotels or non-dedicated reception centres, e.g., emergency shelters, nursing homes, etc. In previous years, the provision of housing by SCML consisted mostly of accommodation in private rooms in the Lisbon area. Within the context of the coronavirus pandemic, and considering the accommodation needs, SCML adopted a new strategy according to which hostels are also used to accommodate asylum seekers.[1] A very limited number of asylum seekers are sometimes referred to homeless shelters managed by the organisation on a temporary basis to address specific vulnerabilities.

In the current reception system, adults and families with children are accommodated at CPR’s Refugee Reception Centre (CAR) or in private accommodation provided by CPR (apartments and rooms in the private market or hostels) during admissibility (including Dublin) and accelerated procedures on the territory. In the case of unaccompanied children, CPR’s Refugee Children Reception Centre (CACR) offers appropriate housing and reception conditions during the regular procedure and at appeal stage.

Capacity and occupancy of the asylum reception system in 2020
Centre Capacity Occupancy at 31 December 2020
CAR 50 (pandemic context) 46
CACR 13[2] 21
Total 63 65

Source: CPR.

CAR is an open reception centre located in Bobadela, Municipality of Loures, and operates in the framework of MoUs with the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security. Renovation works in the premises were concluded in March 2019. The official capacity of the CAR stands at 52 places but, in practice, the centre can accommodate up to 80 persons due to the recent renovation work. Within the context of the coronavirus pandemic, the capacity of CAR stood at 50 places.

In 2020, CPR provided reception assistance to a total of 1,695 asylum seekers,[3] of which 13% were accommodated at CAR, 73% in alternative private accommodation (including rooms in private apartments and hostels), 4% with friends/family, and the remaining 9% in other places of accommodation (e.g., Covid-19 isolation accommodation).

CPR ensures accommodation until ISS or SCML take over and asylum seekers only leave its facilities when alternative accommodation is secured.

CACR is an open reception house for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children located in Lisbon that has operated since 2012 in the framework of MoUs with the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Municipality of Lisbon and the Ministry of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security. Its official capacity stands at 13 places. In order to address overcrowding in the facility, CPR revisited its accommodation policy for unaccompanied children during the year. 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. Furthermore, changing arrangements in rooms allowed to expand the capacity of CACR while preserving adequate accommodation standards. In 2020, CPR accommodated a total of 84 unaccompanied children.

Throughout 2020, CPR continued its operations in the recent Reception Centre for Refugees (CAR II), located in S. João da Talha, Municipality of Loures, specifically devoted to the reception of resettled refugees. CAR II has a maximum capacity of 90 places. However, within the context of the coronavirus pandemic, such capacity was reduced to 66 places (two thirds of the original). In 2020, CAR II accommodated a total of 243 resettled refugees. As mentioned above, it was also part of CPR’s response to the accommodation of unaccompanied children (spontaneous applicants).

In February 2016, the Lisbon Municipality inaugurated a Temporary Reception Centre for Refugees (Centro de Acolhimento Temporário para Refugiados, CATR) that provided transitory reception to relocated asylum seekers. The CATR has a capacity of 26 places and is complemented by temporary accommodation in private housing supervised by designated operational partners. According to the available information, this facility is currently used to accommodate resettled refugees.

According to the available information, the reception model of unaccompanied children transferred from Greece, includes an initial period of 3 to 6 months during which the psychological, educational, and social support are ensured. Support is then guaranteed through the general network of the ISS, ‘independent living’,[5] or foster families. According to the information provided by the Secretary of State for Integration and Migration (SEIM) to the Parliament in December 2020, foster families[6] are a solution meant to younger children and it has been applied in practice. The SEIM also noted that reception entities involved in the programme receive training, and that a manual is being prepared. Furthermore, weekly visits are performed by ISS (and, in Lisbon, the SCML).[7]


[1] This change of practice was accompanied by the creation of a team dedicated to the provision of support to asylum seekers.

[2] Ten additional places for unaccompanied children are available in CAR II, see infra for more information on the reception model.

[3] Including applicants for international protection whose applications were lodged before 2020.

[4] Observatory for Migration, Entrada, Acolhimento e Integração de Requerentes e Beneficiários de Protecção Internacional em Portugal – Relatório Estatístico do Asilo 2020, May 2020, p 226, available in Portuguese at: https://bit.ly/2MGYtB9

[5] Unofficial translation (“autonomia de vida”)..

[6]The legal framework for foster families is established by Decree-Law 164/2019 of 25 October 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/3ejB02M.

[7] Video recording of the parliamentary hearing of the Ministry of the Presidency and the Secretary of State for Integration and Migration (21 December 2020) available at: https://bit.ly/3ouCeeM.  

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