SEF - Serviços de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras

Foreign resident stampede! Portugal’s never had so many, says SEF

Portugal has never had so many foreign residents! Numbers coming from borders agency SEF show the country has more than 480,000 people legally established here. That’s an increase of 13.9% on 2018’s tally and the highest number of ‘estrangeiros’ since SEF opened its doors in 1976.

Key in these figures is the fact that they are only official numbers. There will be a lot more people living here who have not yet legalised their situations.

But working on official data, “the foreigners who opt to live in Portugal have increased considerably”, say reports. “It’s a growing tendency registered for the third consecutive year”.

Brazilians continue to be the largest foreign community – many of them here for economic reasons.

It has to be borne in mind however that only recently Bloomberg reported that rich Brazilians are also flocking to Portugal, seeing this country as the “new Miami” and resigning themselves to the fact that the situation in their own country shows no sign of improving (click here).

Reporting exact numbers, authorities have 105,423 Brazilians on their books, followed by Cape Verdians (34,663), Romanians (30,908), Ukrainians (29,218), Brits (26,445), Chinese (25,357), French (19,771), Italians (18,862), Angolans (18,382) and Africans from the former Portuguese colony of Guiné Bissau (16,186).

The latest ‘surprise’ however has been the quantity of Italians requesting residencies, which grew by over 45% between 2017 and 2018.

SEF’s report (RIFA, standing for Report on Immigration and Asylum) coincides with the agency’s 43rd anniversary.

It stresses a marked increase (29.1%) in French nationals settling here last year – as has been widely suggested, propelled by their own country’s painful tax regime.

Indeed, the only nationality easing back on the stampede appears to be Ukrainians who have registered a 10% decrease in numbers per those pegged in 2017.

SEF’s report does not dwell on the reasons for foreign citizens choosing Portugal, although it shows that 81% “make up part of the active (ie working) population, with most in the 25-44 year age group”.

More than two-thirds of foreign residents live in the districts of Lisbon, Faro (meaning the Algarve) and Setúbal (taking in the Alentejo).

Requests for Portuguese nationality have also increased to levels “never seen before”. RIFA shows that more than 41,000 foreign citizens requested nationality last year, “the highest number in the last five years”.

Of these requests, SEF has awarded 32,414 and failed 1,425.

Says the report, the bulk of requests related to changes in the law that allow wider access to people born on Portuguese territory, irrespective of their parents’ nationality.

Indeed, the only numbers that appear to have gone down are those relating to requests for asylum, which fell 27% compared to 2017. This has a lot to do with the closure of the EU’s relocation programme, which led to a 21.9% increase in the number of requests for international protection.

Of asylum requests lodged, most came from Angola (224), followed by the Ukraine (132), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (131), Guinea (68), Pakistan (51), Guinea-Bissau (48), Eritreia (47), Venezuela (41), Somalia (40) and Morocco (31).

When it came to requests for international protection, 286 people were awarded refugee status (compared to 119 in 2017), “the majority from Asiatic countries” and 405 were given residencies for subsidiary protection (compared to 381 in 2017). Again, the majority of these were to citizens from Asiatic countries, says RIFA.

And finally, the report shows that SEF barred entry to a massive increase of people arriving – mainly through Lisbon airport – without the right paperwork.

Numbers stopped were 75.4% up on 2017, which translates into 3,759 people ‘sent home’, the majority from Brazil (2,866), Angola (186), Paraguay (121), Guinea-Bissau (58) and Moldavia (52).

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