We have mentioned in other articles the need of new system or at least create better policies regarding the inclusion process in Portugal for migrants and refugees.
In this article we will try to show with more details some of the practical problems which refugees are facing in Portugal, and it’s important to mention that these details and the content are part of the consultation report which was made by the European migrant advisory board, and since I’m member of the board, I was in charge to do this consultation in Portugal, which gave me the opportunity to be in touch with refugees and to talk deeper about their problems, specially that i’m refugee in Portugal as well.
Agencies and officials in Portugal allocated free housing for 18 months to refugees. However, many respondents said basic conditions were often lacking, including electricity and water supply, and housing was often located in areas with poor transport links and far away from the places to work. There are also problems with social integration and security in areas where migrants and refugees are housed. After 18 months, refugees have to find another house and cover all costs themselves, which is extremely challenging, particularly as refugees are faced with considerable hurdles to secure employment and social integration.
During the consultation process refugees had problems finding jobs, mainly because the administrative situation made them “lose” one year by requiring them to get the residence permit before they could legally work.
Language was another difficulty, and participants called for more language courses in order to facilitate their integration into the labour market. Some said they did not know about existing language courses or job- orientation centers and programmes, which reduced their chances of finding a job.
Most refugees in the focus group did not have access to Portuguese language classes, and if they did they mentioned a lot the issues regarding the quality of the courses.
The jobs they could get were generally low-skilled ones, with low salaries and tough working conditions. Some respondents—especially those in Lisbon— expressed that it was through informal avenues (friends and NGOs) that they had managed to find a job.
During the focused group consultation most of the participants shared the opinion that integration services for migrants and refugees were not satisfactory.
Participants had problems with the bureaucracy and delays in acquiring legal documents like residency cards and a social security number. Similarly, respondents described problems with accessing health care centers and hospitals sometimes.
In regard to education, again in the focused group consultation it was stated by several respondents that integration in university depended a lot on the professor and the course itself. If the professor wanted to collaborate, things were easier and simpler. Sometimes, lack of communication due to language barriers made acquiring information and integration harder than it should be.
The challenge for this group was access to university, including finding scholarships, language courses, and the equivalence process (i.e., recognition of their existing degrees).
Recently there were new programs which give the chance for refugees to complete their education.
What was very interesting during the consultation that sometimes the problems was avoided just because the agencies or the officials who are taking responsibility of some refugees are acting better than others, which means there were not commitment to any specific standards, it’s not clear even if there is any specific standards regarding the inclusion and integration process.
Most of these problems are not even mentioned in the agenda of the politicians in Portugal, which bring the need of having more refugees talking and representing their issues to the government. During the consultation the respondents said that refugees and migrants were not represented in public events such as conferences and lectures about migration, or that they were included only in a “decorative” role. They also expressed the difficulty for a young person to find support from an NGO or the government to start any activity, and that gender equality is also not assured.
We have mentioned many times the good intention from the government to receive the new comers and help them to build their new life but this intention should be generating practical actions to try to change the reality which in way or another will give bad image about refugees situation in Portugal if nothing changed in the near future.