Rundown Lisbon townhouses ‘home’ to thousands of immigrants

Rundown Lisbon townhouses ‘home’ to thousands of immigrants

SEF opens investigation; queries whether parish councils are ‘on the take’…

An investigation by Expresso this week describes three and four-storey Lisbon townhouses accommodating up to 1,400 immigrant residents.

The immigrants are often not even in Portugal. They have paid ‘facilitators’ to help them on their way to receiving Portuguese residency. To achieve this, they need an official residence.

Says Expresso, the parish councils of Arroios, Penha de França and Santa Maria Maior in Lisbon are just some of those ‘benefitting’ from the flood of ‘new residents’. The fact that the numbers simply could not fit in the addresses given appears to have been completely overlooked.

SEF (Foreigners and Frontiers agency) is now looking into whether parish councils are simply too overworked and unsuspecting to notice, or whether there are ‘elements within them’ on the take.

There may be a shutting of eyes”, one inspector admits, as parish councils can make good money issuing residency certificates.

Says Expresso, “a little more than two years ago, Arroios issued a statement rejoicing in the issuance of 10,000 certificates – a revenue of €100,000”.

The price of these documents varies. It can be as little as €3-€4, or as much as €10 in certain areas. 

Expresso has heard from the president of Santa Maria Maior parish that “people who work in Tavira (in the Algarve) come to us for residency certificates. It is impossible that someone who works in Tavira comes home to Lisbon every day…”

The majority of immigrants are from Nepal, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh – and the traffickers selling these addresses are invariably nationals of the same countries, already resident in Portugal, says the paper.

This is an issue that some parish councils have tried to ‘bring to the attention’ of the Minister of Internal Administration (José Luís Carneiro) to no avail.

“We have been trying to get a meeting with him since April”, Arroios parish council president Madalena Natividade tells Expresso.

As often happens in situations like this, once a national newspaper ‘exposes’ less than transparent practices, government departments tend to ‘act’. This may be the case here.

According to Expresso, there are a number of ‘crimes’ underway – even a scheme “related to the Brexit process” which SEF has detected, in which immigration company representatives offered clients “the majority of them resident in the UK, the promise of obtaining a residence certificate for EU citizens which would supposedly help maintain freedom of movement within the Schengen area, even if they have never resided in Portugal.  For these services, the companies charged each client between €2,000 and €5,000”.

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