Extinction of SEF border service will “bolster security”

SEF’s powers will be transferred to seven bodies

Portugal’s minister of internal affairs said on Wednesday that the reform that will lead to the end of the immigration and borders service, SEF, scheduled for October 29, will make it possible to “strengthen the levels of security in border control and surveillance”.

“There are clear efficiency gains. It’s true that the restructuring of SEF and the consequent transition of competencies to the GNR and PSP police forces in terms of border control and the activity of foreigners in Portugal pose challenges for integrated border management. But these are structural and organisational challenges aimed at ensuring efficiency and increasing border control,” said José Luís Carneiro.

The minister presided over the opening of a series of conferences on the transition of SEF’s responsibilities, an event that this security service is organising today and Thursday at the PSP headquarters and on October 9 and 10 at the GNR HQ.

“Having passed the phase of structuring political decisions, it is now essential to ensure the success of the transition process,” said the minister.

The process of abolishing SEF is scheduled for October 29 and the powers of this security service will be transferred to seven bodies.

At the conference, the minister specified that the PSP will take responsibility for controlling the air border, as well as managing the temporary installation centres integrated into airports, while the GNR will be responsible for controlling the maritime border, complementing the maritime surveillance functions carried out by the Coastal and Border Control Unit, as well as the land border. These two security forces will also be responsible for expelling foreign citizens who are in Portugal illegally.

José Luís Carneiro emphasised that “for many months now, the PSP and GNR have been working with SEF at the borders, in a process of cooperation that increases the capacity to control those entering and leaving the country and, at the same time, allows for a continuous and healthy exchange of experiences, which will be reflected positively in the future”.

According to the minister, SEF has already given courses in the area of border control to 348 members of the PSP, with another 50 police officers currently being trained, and 235 GNR agents have also attended these courses.

The minister added that Portugal’s criminal investigation police agency, PJ, will take on responsibility for crimes associated with trafficking in human beings and aiding illegal immigration.

The functions of regularising foreign citizens, migrants and refugees, meanwhile, will be assigned to the new Portuguese Agency for Minorities, Migration and Asylum (APMMA), which will bring together the jobs of regularising migrants and issuing documents, together with the Institute of Registry and Notaries, as well as the powers of reception, integration and protection, resulting from the merger of the High Commission for Migration.

The transition regime for SEF workers establishes that inspectors will be transferred to the PJ and non-police officials to the future agency and IRN, with “a transitional functional assignment regime” that allows SEF inspectors to work for up to two years in the GNR and PSP at air and sea border posts.

According to the minister, the aim is for the number of SEF inspectors who will remain at border control to drop from 100% in the first year to 50% in the second.

As part of this process, there will also be a new configuration of the Portuguese border control system, with the creation of the Borders and Foreigners Coordination Unit, which will operate under the Secretary General of the Internal Security System, and some inspectors will also be transferred to the Tax Authority.

Cooperation will dictate the success of the organisational and functional dimensions of this new security architecture, and the commitment of the directorates and command will determine whether we need 100% in the first year and 50% in the second year or whether we manage to meet this target before then. If we manage to fulfil this objective, we’re also helping to ensure that employees can move to the PJ sooner,” he said.

Referring to the human resources available for this reform, the minister said that, regardless of whether they are “many or few”, the important thing is to “try to evaluate” how to make the resources available “more efficient in the performance of the functions and missions assigned”.

The restructuring of the SEF was decided by the previous government and approved by parliament in November 2021, after being postponed twice.

Source: LUSA