In one of the most heartening political statements of the day, Justice minister Francisca Van Dunem – doubling up for the time being as Minister for Internal Administration – has said Portugal can receive tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees in safety, and “without risk of turbulence”.
Schools are already preparing to receive Ukrainian children and teens “as soon as possible”, with the strengthening of Portuguese language teaching and social support at the top of the agenda.
“We have a large Ukrainian community in Portugal which is perfectly integrated and installed. Many of the people who are coming to Portugal have family or friends already here who will give them support in the first phase”, said the minister – admitting that Portugal anyway is a country crying out for working-age people.
“We have a real necessity for people. Our active population has reduced dramatically. Portugal needs people, and in this perspective, the idea we have is to welcome and take in the maximum number of people”, Ms Van Dunem added, praising the exceptional work by members of borders agency SEF “who have formed teams of volunteers to work extra hours in shifts, multiplying teams that are processing people for temporary protection”.
This is “a moment of exceptional emotional charge” – one that has (and continues to) generate enormous solidarity from Portuguese society, to which SEF has not been immune (in spite of all the uncertainties over its own future as a government entity).
Regarding ‘screening’ of people arriving for example without documents, the idea is to work in a similar way to verification processes that go ahead for voting. If there is nothing in databases to flag the person’s name as having committed a crime, or being wanted by authorities, then new arrivals will be given ‘immediate protection’ which will mean they receive health service, social security and fiscal numbers – giving them the tools with which to embark on a new life; even to receive social support if necessary.
Another boon in today’s news is that the universe of job opportunities opening up has now increased to over 13,000.