New law legalises immigrants with criminal records

A controversial new law is obliging the government to “concede residencies to convicted criminals”.

According to Diário de Notícias today, the new law – approved in August by the PS Socialists, backed by PCP communists and Bloco de Esquerda – has already legalised 200 immigrants with records for violent crimes.

The situation stems from a clause that allows temporary visas to be extended for “humanitarian purposes”, irrespective of applicants’ pasts.

The gist of the law is that criminal records – particularly when they involve jail terms of over a year – should preclude any authorisation of residency, explains the paper.

But that did not sit well with left-wingers.

Thus “the solution found by SEF (border control agency) with the approval of the ministry of internal administration” to use an “exceptional regime” for humanitarian reasons for foreign citizens who did not “fulfill all the legal requisites”.

Article 123 is “habitually used for asylum cases”, says DN, and also allows for exceptions when they can be deemed “in the national interest” or “for reasons of public interest in the exercise of an activity relevant to science, culture, sport” or with a “social or economic” basis.

DN adds that SEF “did not answer” its question about how many foreigners with criminal records have now found themselves issued with Portuguese residencies – documents that will now protect them from any form of future expulsion.

But the paper quotes “sources who are accompanying these situations” who guarantee that “three are already around 20”.

DN adds that SEF has never supported this change in the ‘foreigners law’, stressing it creates too many muddles.

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