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Abstract

Portugal does not have a tradition of receiving refugees. Similarly, the study of refugee issues is also very incipient. This short paper intends to be a small contribution to this field of research by presenting an analysis of the evolution of the Refugee Status in Portugal. http://refuge.journals.yorku.ca/index.php/refuge/article/view/22030
Asylum and Refugee Status in Portugal
Lucio Sousa
Abstract
Portugal does not have a tradition of
receiving refugees. Similarly, the
study of refugee issues is also very
incipient. This short paper intends to
be a small contribution to this field of
research by presenting an analysis of
the evolution of the Refugee Status in
Portugal.
Resume
Le Portugal n'a pas de tradition
d'accueil des refugies. Corrolairement
I' etude des questions concernant Ie
refuge y est plutot limitee. Ce bref
article se veutune modeste con-
tribution
a
ce champ de recherche par
la presentation d'une analyse de
l'evolution du statut de refugie au
Portugal.
Portugal does not have a tradition of
admission and reception oflarge fluxes
ofrefugees. The exceptions could be the
thousands that fled from the Civil War in
Spain and the flux of some 200,000 who
transited throughout the country to the
Americas during the Second World War.
The April Revolution in 1974 brought
changes in the political, socioeconomic
and demographic characteristics of the
country, namely the inflexion of the
international migration patterns. Among
these included the repatriation of some
800,000 Portuguese from ex colonies
and the rising of the foreign population.
Lucio Sousa is an anthropologist finishing his
Masters Degree in Intercultural Relations at
the Open University in Portugal with a study
on refugee integration in the Portuguese
society.
26
Fluxes and recognitions
In this context, the figures of asylum
seekers are rather low. Between 1974
and 19971 the total applications were
12,782 including 9,665 individual ap-
plications and 3,117 family members.
These figures are mostly concentrated in
two periods around the years 1980 and
1993. Until the end of the eighties most
of the asylum seekers came from the
Portuguese speaking countries of Africa
(P ALOP). This African pattern is a main
characteristic of the asylum seekers in
Portugal and a primary distinction when
comparing with other Western European
countries.
Only in the period around the year
1993 did the origin of asylum seekers get
closer to the European pattern when the
largest part of the asylum seekers came
from Eastern Europe. Nowadays, the
pattern of spontaneous asylum relays
again in the African pattern now mainly
from West African countries.
But the figures may present only part
of the issue. In fact, sociologically, it is
arguable that many of those arriving
from Angola and Mozambique in the
seventies and the eighties could be
deemed as refugees2It is possible that
this situation can still happen in this
decade in the Angolan case3 .
As for the status recognition, between
1974 and 1997,961 cases were granted
(414 for family members ). After 1994,
the residence permit for humanitarian
reasons was given 103 times. Most of
these recognitions were from Africa
(86%), and 75% from the PALOP.
Nevertheless, it is important to mention
that between 1974 and 1993 the
Portuguese nationality was granted in
2394 cases before the first decision or
after a negativeone. Of these, theP
ALOP, especially between 1978 and
1984, account for 2359 (98.5%).
Refugee Status
In order to analyse the evolution of Refu-
gee Status in the Portuguese law we will
use Zolberg's (1989)4 categories of ac-
tivist, target and victim for describing it.
Although Portugal had signed the
1951 Geneva Convention in 1960 only in
1975 was the New York Protocol signed.
In the 1975 Constitution, the asylum was
recognised to those who fought towards
democracy, hence labelled as the activist.
Only in 1980 the first asylum law,
38/80, was elaborated. This law recog-
nised the refugee status under the Con-
stitution, the 1951 Geneva Convention
premises for humanitarian reasons for
those coming from war torn countries.
The activist, the target and the victim
would receive the same level of protec-
tion.
This law lasted until 1993 when a new
asylumlaw,70193, was created. It
incorporated the latest developments in
restrictions on asylum procedures arising
from the Shengen and Dublin agree-
ments. The changes meant that now only
the activist and the target were deemed to
receive the status of refugee. The
humanitarian asylum was turned into a
resident permit for humanitarian reasons
for one year, renewable, giving less
protection degree to the victim.
Recently the asylum law has changed.
In 1998 a new asylum law, 15/98,
considers basically the same refugee
status for the activist and the target, yet,
there is one improvement in the residence
permit for humanitarian reasons, (no
longer a discretionary measure but turned
into a concession).
The novelty arises with the concept of
temporary protection, portrayed as way
of dealing with large groups. A striking
aspect of this concept is that it can be
applied both for the victim, the target or
even the activist. For example, recently,
the Guinea Bissau refugees that come to
Portugal can be seen as victims. Mean-
Refuge, Vol. 18,No.4 (November1999)
while, the Kosovar refugees can also
receive this temporary protection. De-
spite being victims of war, they are
clearly in a situation of target recognis-
able under the Geneva Convention be-
cause they fled due to their ethnic
affiliation.
In
conclusion, the official fluxes are
very small and the main fluxes of such
refugees originate from Africa and the
PALOP. As for the refugee status we
could say that the evolution, after a pe-
riod marked by the decolonisation link-
ages and generous concept, has
changed towards the Europeanharmo-
nising process, with a more restricted
vision of the refugee status and the daz-
zling diversification of asylum proc-
esses.
I
Notes
1.
Sources: Division of Refugees (Aliens and
Borders Police); Costa, Jose Martins Barra
da (1996), Exilio e Asilo (A questlo
Portuguesa 1974
-
1996), s. ed., Lisbon,
Universidade Aberta.
2. Pires, R., Saint-Maurice, A. (1989),
Descolonizap5es e Migraqdes, os
imigrantes dos PALOP em Portugal,
Revista Internacional de Estudos
Africanos, no 10 and 11, p.203-226.
3. Like recent news suggest, see P~blico 99/
01 /22.
4. Zolberg, AristideR.; Suhrke, Astri; Aguayo,
Sergio, (1989), Escape From Violence
Conflit and the Refugees Crisis in the De-
veloping World, s. ed., New York, Oxford
University Press.
o
(
The author thanks Roshrio Tique for com-
ments on the draft.)
Refrge, Vol.
18,
No.
4
(November
1999)
27
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Exilio e Asilo (A questlo Portuguesa 1974 -1996), s
  • Jose Costa
  • Martins Barra
  • Da
Costa, Jose Martins Barra da (1996), Exilio e Asilo (A questlo Portuguesa 1974 -1996), s. ed., Lisbon, Universidade Aberta.