Difficult times ahead. Interior minister José Luís Carneiro (left) with relentless SEF union leader Acácio Pereira (right)

SEF holds out for last minute reprieve

Border agency asks interior minister to ‘intercede with PM’ over extinction

The union of inspectors of Portugal’s immigration and borders service, SEF, is holding out for an 11th hour reprieve from ‘extinction’.

During the opening session of the union’s annual congress today, running under the title “SEF in times of war in Europe”, union leader Acácio Pereira addressed the service’s appeal directly at interior minister José Luís Carneiro, who was attending.

“Prime minister, António Costa, will have given you indications to end SEF. I want the minister to know that SEF inspectors are aware of this difficulty, but we also hope that the minister, politically astute as he is, can explain to the prime minister that this government has no advantage in moving forward with a wrong measure.” 

There is “no technical opinion advising the extinction of the SEF”, he stressed. “Portugal will be worse off without (the) autonomous service”, which he insists is “a security service and criminal police body that has more than 1,000 inspectors specialising in border control, immigration, asylum and the protection of victims of human trafficking”.

“The intention to extinguish the SEF was the tool of political objectives that did not have the national interest in mind. It is a disastrous measure”, Pereira continued, stressing “SEF inspectors have not yet lost hope that the prime minister will give up (this) senseless political obstinacy“.

Acácio Pereira also said that in this matter SEF inspectors and their syndicates “are not inflexible and “are not against adjustments or reforms that improve the service“.

In the end, Pereira simply expressed the hope that the government will back down on its decision and not extinguish the service.

“I listened carefully to the minister’s speech” (at the congress) “and I think at no point did I hear the word extinction”, he told journalists later. “I heard the word restructuring. It is a complex process, and we still believe that there may in fact be a step aside in this situation.” 

While the extinction/ restructuring remains unresolved/pending, thousands of applications for all kinds of bureaucratic details remain locked in the system, with people even unable to access SEF’s website, while issues at the country’s various airports are already well documented.

As Lusa explains, the abolition of SEF was decided by the previous Socialist administration and approved by parliament in November 2021, “having already been postponed twice”.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com