Extinction of Portugal’s SEF border police force stirs up hornet’s nest of controversy

The ‘extinction of SEF border police force’ as a result of hideously thuggish behaviour is generating a veritable hornet’s nest of controversy. Observers suggest it could even see the downfall of minister for interior administration Eduardo Cabrita.

Mr Cabrita – already in a difficult position considering it has taken Portugal nine months to offer ‘compensation’ to the widow of the Ukrainian beaten to death by three SEF inspectors at Lisbon airport nine months ago – has been further ‘embarrassed’ by the fact that President Marcelo met with the head of the country’s PSP police force on Sunday, who emerged from the meeting outlining not simply the dismantling of SEF but of his own force as well.

Manuel Magina da Silva gave journalists the full benefit of his thoughts and opinions (see below), in a sense riding a coach and horses through accepted political ‘protocol’.

Talking to Lusa after Magina da Silva’s statements, Mr Cabrita said the projected reform of SEF, will be announced in the adequate way by the government “and obviously not, with all respect by directors of police”.

He went on to outline the work the government was doing in this regard – but it was clear that as a minister he had been gigantically ‘wrong footed’.

Speaking on SIC television on Sunday night, political commentator Marques Mendes went as far as to say: “Cabrita no longer has conditions to remain in office”. He “lost all his authority” as a result of Magina da Silva’s intervention – which came directly after the impromptu audience with President Marcelo.

This is not the only fly in the deeply convoluted ointment however. The whole issue of dismantling one police force (or even two) has led syndicates to expose long-running frictions over pay.

For example, the starting pay for a SEF inspector is “more than double that of a GNR(/ PSP) police agent”, a source has told Correio da Manhã. Therefore, pressure now will be for the government to rationalise pay across the board, no matter what kind of restructuring takes place.

PLAN FOR “NATIONAL POLICE” FORCE

Manual Magina da Silva is in total support of the creation of a “Polícia Nacional” – along the lines of forces in Spain, France and Italy, he told journalists.

The weekend was a particularly tough one for the PSP as one of its agents was fatally wounded by a drunk driver in Évora (click here). It was as a result of this horror that President Marcelo apparently ‘brought forward’ a meeting scheduled with Magina da Silva for this week – and took the opportunity also to discuss with him the proposed ‘restructuring of SEF’, in the context of the sudden ‘resurgence’ of focus on the death at SEF’s base in Lisbon of a Ukrainian father-of-two (click here).

Magina da Silva told reporters that he told President Marcelo “in a very direct way” that he was all for the extinction of both SEF and the PSP, and the creation of this new national force.

He took the moment to stress that SEF has some ‘excellent police’ within it whose years of good work have been horribly tarnished by the three agents now facing charges of murder.

The problem nonetheless has the whiff of something far greater. Since the killing of Mr Homenyuk, other stories have emerged of systemic mistreatment of immigrants by SEF personnel (click here).

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com