Requests for asylum in Portugal “skyrocket”

With foreigners choosing to come and live in Portugal on the increase (up 2.3% in 2016, compared to the year before), requests for asylum here have also skyrocketed (up 64%), reaching the highest figure for 15 years.

Portugal’s popularity is not without its issues, however.

According to Lusa today, cases of illegal immigration and refusals of entry are also increasing.

Last year, for instance, “more than 1,600 foreigners were barred from entering the country”, which translates into a 29% increase on foreigners turned away in 2015.

Borders agency SEF told the news service that the reason for failed asylum bids lies in applicants not presenting the necessary “legal conditions”.

These include an “absence of motive justifying entry, the absence or expiry of a valid visa and indications for the effects of non-admission into Schengen space”.

SEF added that the increase in the number of entry refusals reflects the “activity of border controls” which in 2016 checked over 15.4 million incoming people, 8.7% more than were checked during 2015.

Swoops on hotels also resulted in an increase in the number of illegal foreigners identified (up 185.4%) while inspections at building sites identified “a very high number of illegal immigrants” – an increase that took 2015’s figures up by 293.8%.

‘Illegals’ simply identified in the street were also ‘up’ last year by 129.6%, reports Lusa, while SEF had to “notify” a whopping 5,470 to voluntarily leave the country – most of them from Brazil.

Nonetheless, those who did qualify for asylum were keeping the authorities busy last year – with 1,469 requests, the “most received in the last 15 years”

According to SEF’s RIFA report (standing for report on immigration, frontiers and asylum), most requests came from Asian citizens (642 – of which the majority were from Syria followed by Iraq), and Africans (611).

As a result, the agency ‘recognised’ 104 African and Asian citizens to be complying with refugee statutes, and conceded 267 authorisations for residency for humanitarian reasons – most of these being issued for Europeans (191), with only 10 Africans receiving the status along with 63 Asians.

Lusa adds that this means “106 more residencies for humanitarian reasons were authorised in 2016 than in 2015”.

2016 was the year in which 46,925 ‘new’ foreigners decided to take up residency in Portugal, reverting the drop that had been in evidence since 2010.

The number of official estrangeiros now on SEF’s books numbers is “almost 400,000”, says Lusa, adding that RIFA interprets the 2.3% increase as Portugal becoming a more attractive destination due to its ‘security’ and regimes offering fiscal advantages.

The French particularly have been flocking (numbers up by 33% since 2015), thanks to the non-habitual residency regime so reviled by Scandinavian countries (click here).

The golden visa scheme too has brought in over 3000 new foreigners: 1,172 being primary residency holders, and 1,836 being family members.

Principal beneficiaries of the golden visa regime continue to be Chinesea, followed in far lesser numbers by Brazilians, South Africans, Russians and Jordanians.

As for the money these visas have brought in, RIFA reports almost 875 million euros, involving 1,329 property deals (€787 million), and 84 transfers of capital equal or superior to a million euros.

This year, the list of Portugal’s top 10 foreign resident nationalities is made up of Brazilians (81,251), Cape Verdians (36,578), Ukranians (34,490), Romanians (30,429), Chinese (22,503), British (19,384), Angolans (16,994), Guinea Bissauns (15,653), French (11,293) and Spanish (11,133).

RIFA does not specify if this is the first year in which the number of resident Chinese in Portugal has exceeded the long-standing high numbers of expatriate Brits.

[email protected]