Portugal is a country that traditionally has not many asylum requests. From January 1st to August 31st there were only 621 requests, according to the Alien and Borders Service (SEF) and the Portuguese Council for Refugees (CPR).

The majority of these requests were made by male individuals (64%), and a total of 40 were presented by minors who arrived alone. The requests include 43 nationalities, with Ukraine, China, Mali and Pakistan as the most represented countries of origin. The 621 requests until the end of August demonstrate a 140% increase in comparison with 2014 figures at the same period.

In order to evaluate the capacity and to prepare a plan of action and a response concerning reinstallation, relocation and integration of citizens from third countries, a Working Group to the European Agenda for Migration was created by the Portuguese Dispatch N. º 10041-A/2015, 3rd September.

This group includes one member from the following Portuguese public (governmental) entities: General-Directorate of European Affairs/Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Alien and Borders Service; Social Security Institute; Labor and Professional Training Institute; General-Directorate of Health; General-Directorate of Education and High Commission for Migration. A member from Local Councils and from Non-governmental Organizations may also integrate this group in the future.

Logistics, administrative support and the coordination of the working group as well, is secured by the Alien and Borders Service.

Description of the initiative

Within the Working Group to the European Agenda for Migration, the High Commission for Migration’s (ACM) mission is focused on three axes:

The first axis focuses the awareness of the public opinion regarding refugees’ issues. This awareness is to be put in practice through campaigns that can both answer the existing inquires and eliminate the prejudice regarding the refugees’ subject. One of the examples was the creation in partnership with the Refugees’ Support Platform, of the magazine «Myths and Facts about the Refugees» a special free issue during a week with newspapers and newsmagazines of higher circulation.

Through its Migrant Support Line, the High Commission also made available the email address refugiados@acm.gov.pt, to answer inquires and to manage all sort of sponsorships to welcome refugees.

Other axes which the High Commission is responsible for within this Working Group is the articulation between the civil society or local councils and hosting proposals that may respond to housing, food, health, education, Portuguese classes and employment needs.

Given the experience that ACM has in immigrants’ integration through its Immigrant’s National Support Centres (CNAIs), a final stance of the High Commission’s work is the opening of the Immigrant’s National Support Centres to refugees.

Implementation of the initiative

The High Commission for Migration has protocols with the following Ministries, so they are represented in the Centres: Health, Legal Affairs, Solidarity and Social Security, Labor and Education.

ACM also works in partnership with those associations of immigrants that provide the mediators,  who deliver public support at the CNAIs.

Resources dedicated to the initiative

Financial sources

Overall budget: 2.000.000 € annually.

Main financial source: the CNAIs are mainly financed by the European Social Fund: 50% in Lisbon, and 70% in Oporto and Faro, respectively. The remaining financing comes from public administration.

Human resources dedicated to the initiative

63 mediators, Public workers

Other resources

86 Local support centers for immigrants


Number of migrants reached by the initiative: In 2014, the National Support Centres for Immigrants (CNAIs) makes a total of 285,430 calls representing, compared to the year 2013, a slight increase of about 2%.

In CNAI the achievements are the full integration of immigrants into Portuguese society. This integration is measured by tools such as MIPEX.

The Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX) is a unique tool that measures integration policies of immigrants in all EU Member States.

Each office has a monitoring of immigrants after the calls. According to the situation to be solved by the immigrant centre and in order to provide an adequate response, the immigrant is contacted either by email or telephone, or by dialing up new appointments.

For example at the office of employment support, where an immigrant makes their registration to actively look for work, the latter is contacted periodically to see if it’s working.

Critical success factors

Since the opening of centers and Extension in Faro until the end of 2014, it was conducted in the same, more than 3 million and 500 thousand people (3,624,653).

In the CNAI in Lisbon, in 2014, there were 158,076 visits, which meant an increase of about 8% compared to the previous year.

In 2014,  103,995 calls carried out in CNAI Porto, representing a slight decrease (2.7%) compared to the year 2013.

In 2014, the CNAI extension in Faro, made 23,359 visits, corresponding to a decline of 11% compared to the year 2013 (and a decrease of attendance for the second consecutive year).

As for immigrant hotline since its opening to the public in 2003, it has made available to immigrants and citizens associations, as well as employers, public administration bodies and the general public, a telephone answering service on the subject of immigration.

Currently, SOS Immigrant Line consists of a team of seven intercultural mediators, from Associations of Non-Governmental Immigrant and organizations (with which ACM has partnered protocols), five different nationalities, enabling the service in 8 languages, such as Portuguese, Cape Verde Creole, English, French, Spanish, Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian and Romanian. When there is a request for another language, the SOS Line refers to the translation service line.

In order to  guarantee the quality of care in 2014, the SOS Immigrant Line mediators attended formations under the Trafficking in Human Beings, Domestic Violence, Health and Safety and First Aid.

In addition to providing information, the SOS Immigrant Line also fixes appointments between immigrants and National Immigrant Support Centres.

Due to problems with the line SOS Immigrant records system software, we could not count the number of calls in 2014 and was registered only in the period from September to December 2014 9693 calls.

The Translation Service line (STT) continues, since 2006, to facilitate communication between immigrant citizens and the various public and private entities, through the translation of telephone conference format.

Thus, immigrants and the technical services it visited, can the clarification and understanding of the various issues, with the help of a translator / interpreter.

Immigrants or the technicians from different institutions, public or private, have the possibility to contact the SOS Immigrant Line to request a translation service. The operator of the Translation Service, in turn, and as the language requested.

Biggest obstacles

At this time, when Europe lives a refugee crisis, we will continue to work throughout these 11 years of existence of CNAIs, opening services to a new audience, refugees, so that refugees received in Portugal are soon integrated into Portuguese society.

We also work to raise awareness of civil society and public opinion on the issue of refugees, to make the acceptance and integration of refugees easier.