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Portugal ready to take 3,000 ‘student refugees’

Following a direct appeal made by German chancellor Angela Merkel last week, the Portuguese government has revealed it is willing to take in another 3,000 refugees, as students.

According to prime minister António Costa’s deputy Eduardo Cabrita, 2,000 could be absorbed into higher education (universities and polytechnics), while another 1,000 could be taken in by professional schools.

Talking in Penela, Coimbra – where Syrian and Sudanese children were welcomed three months ago – Cabrita said the plan involved accommodation, Portuguese classes and, in some cases, classes being undertaken in English.

The plans appear to have been the idea of António Costa, who met with Angela Merkel last Friday, assuring her Portugal was “available on a bilateral basis to collaborate and help Germany”.

The collaboration is in fact an “excellent opportunity” for Portugal to keep numbers up in its higher educational establishments where “due to demographics” they had been dropping.

Another idea from the government has been to use refugee families for seasonal agricultural work.

Cabrita explained that borough councils of the Beira Interior, the Algarve, the West and Trás-os-Montes could be part of a pilot scheme, putting different nationalities into different areas.

“It is a great national effort,” explained Cabrita, “which unites Portuguese society and shows the best of our feelings of a supportive country, even in difficult times.”

As TVI24 explained, the refugee families would substitute the usually Asian workforce brought in to tackle Portugal’s seasonal agricultural work.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com