Types of accommodation


Country Report: Types of accommodation Last updated: 26/05/22


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As mentioned in Freedom of Movement, asylum seekers are generally referred by frontline service providers to the SOG 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. While ISS manages temporary reception centres, social emergency reception centres and social inclusion communities where applicants for and beneficiaries of international protection may be accommodated in certain circumstances,[1] none of them has places specifically assigned to such persons.

In previous years, the provision of housing by SCML consisted mostly of accommodation in private rooms in the Lisbon area. While the majority of applicants for international protection supported by SCML are accommodated in private housing, since 2020, SCML also resorts to hostels to accommodate asylum seekers in order to guarantee accommodation while another solution is not available.[2] 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 2021
Centre Capacity Occupancy at 31 December 2021
CAR 60 47
CACR 14 16
Total 74 63

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. The official capacity of the CAR stands at 52 places but, in practice, the centre can accommodate up to 80 persons due to renovation work. Nevertheless, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the actual capacity has been drastically reduced in order to fully comply with the instructions of health authorities. Currently, the centre may accommodate a maximum of 60 persons.

In 2021, CPR provided reception assistance to a total of 905 asylum seekers,[3] of which 28.5% were accommodated at CAR/CAR 2, 66.9% in alternative private accommodation (including rooms in private apartments and hostels), 4.2% with friends/family, and the remaining 0.4% in other places of accommodation (e.g., accommodation for COVID-19 isolation).[4]

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

Factors such as the number of referrals for accommodation, the need to keep the occupation of facilities under prior limits due to COVID-19, occasional delays in the transition into accommodation provided by other stakeholders, as well as the need to preserve family units, continued to determine the need to resort to external accommodation solutions such as hostels.

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 14 places. In order to address overcrowding in the facility, CPR revisited its accommodation policy for unaccompanied children in 2020. 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 from CACR to CAR 2 in a process of progressive autonomy. Furthermore, changing arrangements in rooms allowed to expand the capacity of the facility while preserving adequate accommodation standards. In 2021, CPR accommodated a total of 59 unaccompanied children.

Throughout 2021, CPR continued its operations in the CAR 2, located in S. João da Talha, Municipality of Loures, specifically devoted to the reception of resettled refugees. CAR 2 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 2021, CAR 2 accommodated a total of 177 resettled refugees. The facility is also part of CPR’s response to the accommodation of unaccompanied children (spontaneous applicants), and to evacuated Afghan citizens that applied for international protection in Portugal.

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. According to the available information, this facility is currently used to accommodate resettled refugees. The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) also manages a temporary centre for resettled refugees in Évora.[6]

It has been announced that AMIF funding has been granted to JRS for the creation of a reception centre in Vendas Novas. According to the available information, it is expected to start its operations in 2023.[7]

Reception of unaccompanied children relocated from Greece is subject to a different practical framework. According to the available information, it 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’,[8] or foster families.[9] According to the information provided by the Secretary of State for Integration and Migration (SEIM) to the Parliament in December 2020, foster families[10] are a solution meant to younger children and have been applied in practice.[11] 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).[12] According to ISS, 5 specialised reception centres with a total of 67 places were specifically created for this program. Relocated unaccompanied asylum seekers were also accommodated in previously existing reception centres. According to ISS, up to the end of 2021, a total of 199 children and young adults were transferred to Portugal within this programme, of which 127 transfers were during 2021.

Decree-Law 26/2021 of 31 March 2021[13] created, inter alia, a National Pool of Urgent and Temporary Accommodation and a National Plan of Urgent and Temporary Accommodation. Recognising the lack of solutions in this regard, the National Plan aims to create structured responses to people in need of emergency or transitional accommodation.[14]

According to the Decree-Law, the National Plan covers persons under the mandate of the entities that form the restricted line-up of the SOG (SEF, ACM and ISS).[15] Referrals of applicants for/beneficiaries of international protection to accommodation within this context should be made by ACM.[16] Such referrals must be communicated to the SOG.[17] Additionally, entities responsible for the reception of applicants and beneficiaries of international protection may access support to promote urgent and temporary accommodation solutions for the National Pool.[18]

At the time of writing, the implementation and impact of this legislation remained unclear.




[1] 90 persons in 2021.

[2] In 2021, a total of 120 places were available within this context.

[3] Including applicants for international protection whose applications were made before 2021.

[4] Accommodation by the end of the provision of support or by 31/12/2021. In total, and according to the reception model currently implemented by CPR, a total of 57% of the supported asylum seekers was accommodated in CAR during a period of time.

[5] 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

[6] See https://bit.ly/3x9NoO9.

[7] For more, see: https://bit.ly/37tAPCe; https://bit.ly/3v0AGyA; https://bit.ly/3JnAVsr.

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

[9] See, for instance: State Party report on Follow-up to Concluding Observations [Human Rights Committee], CCPR/PRT/FCO/5, 27 July 2021, pp.11-13 available at: https://bit.ly/3E42KoA.

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

[11] Reception through foster families has not been used in the case of asylum seeking/refugee children in other occasions/contexts.

[12] 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.  

[13] Available at: https://bit.ly/3Oc68Ct. The functioning of the National Pool of Urgent and Temporary Accommodation is governed by Ministerial Order 120/2021, 8 June, available at: https://bit.ly/3uEmOLm.

[14] Article 11 Ministerial Order 120/2021, 8 June defines the maximum periods of emergency/transition accommodation – 15 days or 6 months, respectively, that may be renewed for an equal period. A specific regime applies to victims of domestic violence.

[15] Article 5(1)(b)(iii) Decree-Law 26/2021 of 31 March.

[16] Article 12(1) and (2) Ministerial Order 120/2021, 8 June.

[17] Article 12(3) Ministerial Order 120/2021, 8 June.

[18] Article 12 Decree-Law 26/2021 of 31 March; article 26(c) Decree-Law 37/2018 of 4 June; article 7(c) Ministerial Order 120/2021, 8 June.

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