Portugal hosts major international conference on immigration

THE FUTURE of international migration is being discussed in Lisbon this week by more than 700 specialists from all over the world.

Now in its 11th year, this is the first time the International Metropolis Conference, considered to be largest international conference of its kind, has been held in Portugal and this year’s theme is “Paths and Crossroads, Moving People, Changing Places”.

The conference intends to address a wide range of issues related to globalisation, diversity and current complex migratory phenomena. In light of the particular experience Portugal has had as both a country of emigration and immigration; this year’s conference will seek to take a closer look at the effects of migration in the Mediterranean and within the community of Portuguese speaking countries.

The High Commissioner for Immigration and Ethnic Minorities, Ruí Marques, considers the event of great importance for the understanding that immigration is among the most important issues of this century.

“To design efficient and adequate policies for the good management of migratory flows and for the integration of immigrants represents a great challenge for us all,” he said.

The results gleaned from this conference will serve as the basis of immigration policy when Portugal assumes the presidency of the European Union in July 2007 (a rotating six month responsibility).

The establishment of institutions and migratory systems of the 19th century, the challenges of an aging demographic, how immigrants transform cities, migration policies and the problem of security and frontier control are just some of the issues that are being debated during this week’s conference.

As well as international specialists and representatives from the Comunidade dos Países de Língua Portuguesa (CPLP) the community of Portuguese speaking countries, Prime Minister, José Sócrates will also be present, along with the Minister for the Presidency, Pedro Silva Pereira and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Co-operation, João Cravinho.

This year’s Metropolis Conference has received the patronage of President Cavaco Silva and is being organised by the Luso-American Foundation, the Centre for Geographical Studies (University of Lisbon), the Alto Comissariado para a Imigração e Minorias Étnicas (ACIME), the High Commission for Immigration and Ethnic Minorities, the Centre of Social Studies (University of Coimbra) and SociNova – Applied Sociology Research Office (New University of Lisbon).

Worldwide there are more than 190 million people living outside of their country of birth.

In Portugal, it is believed there are close to 500,000 immigrants and the largest foreign community is Brazilian, with around 90,000, followed by Ukrainian 67,000 and Cape Verdean (65,000). Immigrant Associations estimate that there are more than 100,000 illegal immigrants living in Portugal.