Social democrats refer to latest attacks on immigrants in Olhão, Algarve
Leader of Portugal’s opposition Social Democratic Party (PSD) Luís Mongtenegro has entered the discussion of attacks on immigrants, suggesting the government needs to face this issue “head-on”.
There needs to be monitoring and planning, he said – to avoid situations such as those that have occurred in Lisbon, Odemira and more recently Olhão, in the Algarve.
“I want to make two very direct appeals to the government here”, he said. “Firstly, not to keep your head in the sand, but to face this issue head-on. There needs to be supervision, but there needs to be planning”.
The PSD leader was speaking to journalists on his arrival in Guarda, the sixth district chosen as part of his country-wide initiative, held following the commitment he made on becoming leader to spend a week each month in the different districts of the country, to find out what people really want/ need.
In addressing issues related to immigration, in the aftermath of the deadly fire that occurred on Saturday night in Lisbon, Mr Montenegro said he “deeply regretted” that the PS (Socialist Party) and government “have not taken advantage” of the PSD’s momentum in pushing for a programme to understand what the country lacks.
“Portugal has an obvious demographic problem. All studies indicate that in the coming years we will lose 20 to 25% of our population. We need to retain our young people, we need to not let them leave the country and to take advantage of their qualifications. But this is not enough (…) We need to reverse the birth rate trend in Portugal and create conditions to remove the obstacles for those young couples who want to have children. But that is not enough either. We have to have immigration policies, reception policies, and integration policies for immigrants.”
“Looking at Lisbon, I believe that the day is for us to make a wake-up call to the country and the government, to have a more effective migration policy, that not only supervises but, on the contrary, can plan, can plan the reception and integration of immigrants“, he concluded.
According to Luís Montenegro, the Lisbon fire – in a district filled with Indian and Bangladeshi nationals, often living cheek-by.jowl – “brought to light a situation that unfortunately exists in Portugal and not only in Lisbon”. It exists in several regions, related with the presence of immigrants who come to help the country to overcome some human resources gaps, he said.
“They come with good intentions and are subjected to degrading conditions from a human point of view”.
And then one has the issues in which gangs of youths have been accosting and terrifying immigrant workers in Olhão (see box story below).
The PSD leader also recalled what happened in Odemira during the pandemic, when the issue of immigrant workers “living in absolutely intolerable conditions and earning a very low income” came to the boil.
For Luís Montenegro, who expressed his sorrow for the victims of the fire in Lisbon, these situations “must be accounted for”.
BOX: Immigrant attacks in Olhão
These came to a fore in the last few days when an attack on a Nepalese worker was posed over social media. Authorities since then have ‘come out in indignation’: minister for internal administration José Luís Carneiro saying yesterday: “We have identified some suspects, others may come to be identified in the next few hours, next few days – and it is probable that during the next week there will be rigorous public information on what was inadmissible and unacceptable behaviour”.
What appears to have been happening is that a group of Portuguese youths (for want of a better description) has been targeting immigrants specifically: attacking them in the streets at night, kicking them, abusing them, trying to steal anything they have of value.
According to Público, one of the muggers even tried to light his victim’s hair with a lighter.
The paper claims there have been at least 15 immigrants attacked in Olhão by the same group in the past month.
“The town knows who they are”, says Público. They are local youths, aged between 16 to 19. They appear to have made no attempts to hide their faces during the attacks.
Talking to reporters over the weekend, Olhão mayor António Pina appealed to authorities to remove the young men from the town before local people take justice into their own hands: “It is a decision for the public prosecutors office and the judge, but it is important to remove them from the community soon, even for their own safety”, he said. “The Olhão population will not accept this (behaviour)”.