The Asylum Act provides for the right of asylum seekers to be immediately informed about their rights and duties related to reception conditions. It also foresees that they must be informed about the organisations that can provide assistance and information regarding available reception conditions, including medical assistance. Furthermore, SEF is required to provide asylum seekers with an information leaflet, without prejudice to providing the information contained therein orally. In both cases the information must be provided either in a language that the asylum seeker understands, or is reasonably expected to understand, to ensure the effectiveness of the right to information.
In practice, upon registration, asylum seekers receive an information leaflet from SEF that briefly covers some of its information obligations including reception conditions. The information contained in the leaflets is brief and not considered user-friendly particularly in the case of unaccompanied children. According to CPR’s experience, the leaflet is only available in a limited number of foreign languages (e.g., French, English, Arabic). While a specific information leaflet for unaccompanied children which, among others, includes information on reception conditions is available online, CPR is not aware of its systematic distribution despite having been appointed as legal representative on numerous occasions throughout the year.
In accordance with existing MoUs with the authorities, CPR provides information to asylum seekers throughout the asylum procedure and particularly during admissibility (including Dublin) and accelerated procedures. This is done through individual interviews as well as through social and legal support. Before the pandemic, group sessions were also organised. The information provided by CPR broadly covers the information requirements provided in the law as regards the institutional framework of reception, including on the dispersal policy, as well as the types and levels of material reception conditions, access to health care, education, employment, etc. In 2020, information leaflets were also developed and distributed by CAR.
This further includes the provision of tailor-made information to unaccompanied children upon their admission to CACR orally and using multimedia and written materials such as a leaflet that contains child-friendly information on internal rules, available services, geographical location, general security tips and contacts, etc. (available in Portuguese, English, Russian, Tigrinya and French).
The serious capacity challenges faced by CPR (see Conditions in Reception Facilities and Regular Procedure: Legal Assistance) have however impacted the provision of information during the first stage of the asylum procedure, particularly regarding asylum seekers placed in private accommodation in more remote locations. Furthermore, the pandemic context also posed additional challenges, requiring constant adjustments of human and material resources and procedures.
During the regular procedure and at appeal stage, asylum seekers should benefit from an individual follow-up with ISS and SCML. While no research has been conducted to date to assess the impact of the dispersal policy, CPR is not aware of any serious challenges in accessing social services or in the provision of information regarding reception conditions during this stage of the asylum procedure despite some complaints regarding difficulties in securing an appointment or language barriers.
According to the Statistical Report of Asylum 2020, the dispersal mechanism is considered good practice despite the implementation challenges. Among the challenges identified by the Report are: (i) the reluctance of applicants in moving from the Lisbon area to other parts of the country; (ii) the need to finetune the distribution criteria; and (iii) discrepancies in the response capacity of local Social Security services.
Other organisations also provide information and assistance to asylum seekers during the first instance of the regular procedure such as JRS, Crescer, and ACM through its Local Support Centres for Migrants Integration (CLAIM), albeit in a limited number of cases and mostly focused on integration.
Within the context of the coronavirus pandemic, cross-cutting efforts were made by CPR to provide asylum seekers with information on the overall situation in all contacts with its staff (e.g., the need to adopt preventive measures, to stay indoors and to follow the information provided by the competent authorities, and on the closure of many public services).
 Article 49(1)(a) Asylum Act.
 Article 49(1)(a)(iv) Asylum Act.
 Article 49(2) Asylum Act.
 Observatory for Migration, Entrada, Acolhimento e Integração de Requerentes e Beneficiários de Protecção Internacional em Portugal – Relatório Estatístico do Asilo 2020, May 2020, available in Portuguese at: https://bit.ly/2MGYtB9, p 141-142.