A visit to Olhão on Monday by President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa ended up being more than the originally planned class-debate with local secondary school students.
The head of State took the opportunity to deal with a more pressing issue – apologise, in person, to two Nepalese immigrants who were recently attacked by a local gang.
An attack on one of the Nepalese workers on January 25 was posted on social media recently, sparking a wave of outrage over the violence against immigrants that this ‘gang’ has been responsible for.
The footage shows the immigrant curled up on the ground as he is punched, kicked, and attacked with sticks. It is also reported that the attackers, said to be aged between 16 and 19, tried to burn his hair.
After the “class-debate” with students at the Dr. Francisco Fernandes Lopes secondary school in Olhão, the president made a point of meeting the two immigrants, whose names were not revealed.
Referring to the man who was filmed being attacked, Marcelo said: “There is no justification for this attack, and I apologise to him.”
Going on to describe the sad reality of many of these migrant workers who arrive in Portugal to find themselves working in precarious conditions, the president said: “What happened to him is what happens to many others, for example, taken to Alentejo to work in agriculture or construction, only to find the jobs they were promised aren’t there.”
This particular immigrant already has a fiscal number and is hoping to find work in the restaurant industry after recovering from the injuries sustained during the attack. Olhão council is helping the victim with the necessary documentation to obtain a national health service number as “he needs to be checked by doctors”, confirmed mayor António Pina.
As Marcelo pointed out, this was not a one-off situation. “But we must never accept this as normal in Portuguese society,” he said.
“These people (migrant workers) are not here to steal jobs; they are working in sectors where vacancies are not being filled (by Portuguese). Thus, there is nothing that justifies this kind of inhumane, anti-democratic and criminal behaviour, which can never be accepted as normal,” he added.
Olhão mayor António Pina confirmed that police authorities are investigating, but no one had yet been named an official suspect (arguido).
“The Olhão population will not accept this (violent behaviour),” he said, suggesting the authorities should act swiftly in order to identify the gang members.