Types of accommodation


Country Report: Types of accommodation Last updated: 30/11/20


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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 the case of SCML, the provision of housing consists mostly of accommodation in private rooms in the Lisbon area. 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 (rooms in private apartments 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



Occupancy at 31 December 2019










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. In 2019, CPR provided reception assistance to a total of 1,866 asylum seekers,[1] of which only 12% were accommodated at CAR, 82% in alternative private accommodation (including rooms in private apartments and hostels), and the remaining 6% with friends / family.  The significant number of applicants for international protection in alternative private accommodation reflects the pressure over the reception capacity and was also noted with concern by CRESCER.

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

The significant increase in the number of referrals from SEF meant that overcrowding in CAR persisted throughout the year. Aggravating factors included the fact that CAR was partially closed for renovation works and that despite the existing arrangements, asylum seekers who have appealed the rejection of their application at the border are systematically referred to the centre upon release for purposes of transitional accommodation during the referral process to the GTO. Furthermore, the transition into private accommodation provided by SCML as per the existing arrangements has experienced significant delays throughout the year. Along with the difficulties faced by asylum seekers in finding private housing due to the lack of available properties and increased market prices all these factors contributed to stays in CPR’s CAR or private accommodation of up to 6 months.

In 2019, 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 due to overcrowding of CAR and cash flow issues impairing reception in hostels and private accommodation. Applicants arriving within that period were provided accommodation directly by SEF in hotels in different parts of the country. During such period, a constructive dialogue between CPR and the Government was maintained, with both parties working towards solutions.

CACR, on the other hand, is an open reception house for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children located in Lisbon that operates 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. The official capacity stands at 13 places, and, in 2019, CPR provided housing at CACR to a total of 78 unaccompanied children. 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. In 2019, CPR thus accommodated a total of 103 unaccompanied children.

Following steady increases in the number of asylum applications in recent years, CPR has established a new reception centre with the financial support of the Council of Europe Development Bank and in partnership with the Ministry of Home Affairs. The new Reception Centre for Refugees (CAR II) is located in S. João da Talha, Municipality of Loures, has a maximum capacity of 90 places, of which 30 are dedicated to unaccompanied children. The remaining 60 places are dedicated to the transitory accommodation of resettled refugees. The new centre was inaugurated in December 2018 and started to operate in 2019.[2]

In the particular case of asylum seekers arriving through relocation, the hosting organisations offered an initial 18-month support programme – 24-month in the case of PAR – that generally included housing in kind either in private accommodation rented by the hosting organisation or in collective accommodation such as reception centres for vulnerable populations. Since 2016, CPR has established MoUs with 23 municipalities and institutions for the reception of up to 395 relocated asylum seekers that for the most part benefited from rented accommodation. In February 2016, the Lisbon Municipality inaugurated a Temporary Reception Centre for Refugees (Centro de Acolhimento Temporário para Refugiados, CATR) that provides 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.


[1] Including applicants for international protection whose applications were lodged before 2019.

[2]  See CPR, ‘Novo Centro de Acolhimento para Refugiados (CAR II)’, 19 December 2018, available in Portuguese at: https://bit.ly/2RQDr3C.


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