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British are here to stay

By DAISY SAMPSON [email protected]

The exodus of Britons from Portugal, packing up their belongings and returning to the UK because they have been unable to finance living in the country, may be a thing of the past, according to new figures.

Latest statistics from the British Behaviour Abroad Report released by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) show that the number of British residents in Portugal has stabilised at 30,000 following a 21% drop the previous year.

The number of Britons living in Portugal was 38,000 in the period between April 1, 2008 and March 31, 2009; this dropped to 30,000 for the same period to March 2010.

According to the British Embassy in Lisbon, they are not aware of significant numbers of people moving back to the UK in the last 12 months because of financial difficulties and they believe that the stabilisation of the numbers could be due to better integration of the British within Portuguese society.

A spokesman for the Embassy said: “Slowly more expats are becoming integrated into the Portuguese community, taking up residence and registering with social security.

“British residents tend to be more aware of their rights and eligibility to claim benefits, subsidies and pensions in Portugal.”

The annual British Behaviour Abroad Report from the FCO has also shown that the number of British visitors to Portugal has also increased from 1,629,000, between April 1 2009 to March 31 2010, to 1,685,000 in the same period between 2010 and 2011.

This backs up the findings of the Portuguese Tourism Board (see the Algarve Resident edition August 5) which showed that the number of British tourists had increased in 2011 compared to 2010, a positive indicator for the tourism industry of the Algarve.

Not only does the report detail the number of British people living and visiting Portugal, it also shows the total number of cases needing Consular assistance, a figure which has not risen significantly since last year.

Consular Assistance

A spokesman from the British Embassy in Lisbon explained how improvements within the services of the Consulates may well have helped to keep numbers down, despite increased numbers of visitors.

“During this period, our Consular staff have been developing more outreach activities and increasing their presence at public events,” said the spokesman.

“As a result, more people are probably aware of the help the Consulate can offer. In addition, our methodology for recording consular casework has improved to be more accurate and consistent across Portugal.”

Generally, the figures in the report, which detailed the numbers of hospitalisations, deaths and various other cases of Consular assistance, were stable.

However, the number of arrests was up dramatically in Portugal from eight in the 2009/10 report to 28 in the latest report of 2010/11.

The Embassy spokesman said: “In the Algarve, the number of notifications of arrests went up from three in 2009/10 to 11 in 2010/11. However, most of these detentions did not lead to custodial sentences as they were for minor offences, for example the non-payment of fines or drunk and disorderly behaviour.

“We believe that the crackdown on crime by local authorities may also have contributed in certain circumstances to this increase. It should also be noted that the overall number of arrests for Portugal also includes detentions in connection with European Arrest Warrants.”

While the number of arrests has risen, the number of sexual assaults has dropped significantly from 10 in the last report to four in the 2010/11 report and this is probably down to a combination of people both being more aware of the dangers and better policing, says the Embassy.

“The FCO Travel Advice last year provided and communicated good preventative measures for British nationals visiting Portugal, which included alerts about possible personal attacks, including sexual assaults,” said the spokesman.

Do you have a view on this story? Please email Editor Inês Lopes at [email protected]