Setúbal's town hall building
Setúbal's town hall building

Putting Russians in charge of processing Ukrainian refugees “was wrong”

Communist-led Setúbal municipality accused of “insensitivity”

In a report that has taken months to compile – when the conclusion could not have been clearer – an inspection committee (with an impossible set of letters to its name) has “considered that there was insensitivity by Setúbal city council in placing Russian citizens in the reception of refugees from a country invaded by Russia”.

The report comes months after the brouhaha that followed Expresso’s disturbing story of Ukrainian refugees being frightened on Portuguese soil by deeply uncomfortable questions from Russian citizens in the name of routine procedure. It was not immediately accompanied by any kind of apology or statement from the CDU council that sanctioned the treatement (see below).

Indeed, the council – which has been fined €170,000 for its violation of data protection legislation in this regard (and officially ‘reprimanded’ on two counts) – is said to be challenging sanctions applied by Almada’s administrative and fiscal court.

CEFCCSMARUS – the acronym for the ‘commission for monitoring the conduct of the municipality and municipal services in the reception of Ukrainain refugees in Setúbal’ – appears to have had very little to say as a result of its investigation, beyond the fact that the council managed to “degrade” its “image”, while it is unclear “what role the association of immigrants from Eastern European countries (EDINSTVO), in particular its representative Igor Kashin, played in the process of receiving Ukrainian refugees”.

Readers who followed this story when it broke may remember that Mr Kashin was described as having close links with the Kremlin.

Setúbal’s communist/ green coalition mayor André Martins referred particularly to this in his response issued some hours following the report’s publication, stressing that “none of the serious and unfounded suspicions” that swirled last April about the actions of the city council have been confirmed” – nor has any relevant comment been offered over the possible intentions of Igor Kashin and his wife.

“In the face of the more than evident lack of evidence of municipal misconduct in this case”, the report “limits itself to pointing out a supposed “lack of sensitivity“, which the mayor described as a “purely subjective conclusion and only sustained by the personal convictions of the authors of the document“. 

For André Martins, “the intentions of those who accused Setúbal Town Council and its executive of malevolent intentions in the reception of refugees have been completely frustrated”, constituting “unacceptable slander”.

“It is important to remember that this case arose after statements and suspicions launched, on 8 April 2022, by the Ukrainian ambassador in Portugal”, he continued.

“The City Council promptly requested the Government to provide clarification on the suspicions raised by the ambassador, who has since been dismissed by the Ukrainian government.

“This request for “clarification” also implied that, if the Government believed that the suspicions raised by the then ambassador were credible, it should have immediately informed Setúbal City Council, and other local authorities where there are associations of immigrants under suspicion, of the need to adopt measures, which did not happen, although it is known that it is the Government that has the necessary instruments to investigate accusations of espionage”.

In other words, Setúbal town council appears to be attempting to emerge from this ‘dressing down’ saying “it could have been a great deal worse…”

It is therefore worth asking who made up CEFCCSMARUS? According to Lusa the people investigating the actions of Setúbal’s City Council were all already members of Setúbal’s municipal assembly.

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