SEF borders agency has refused asylum to the eight young Moroccans who arrived by boat in Monte Gordo shortly before Christmas.
Says Diário de Notícias, the decision has been taken by the agency’s office for refugees and asylum (GAR) in a bid to dissuade people-traffickers from extending migrant routes into Portugal.
With another boat-load of purported asylum-seekers having arrived from apparently the same city in Morocco on Monday, DN stresses that SEF inspectors will nonetheless consider the new applications for ‘international protection’ in exactly the same way as they did the young men who arrived in December.
Carrying a detailed report on all the reasons for refusing the December arrivals’ asylum requests, DN reveals that Portugal’s coastal vigilance system is often hampered by lack of manpower.
Says the paper, “SIVICC (standing for: integrated system of coastal control), which has a total of 20 towers with radars and cameras distributed throughout the Portuguese coast, is controlled from a command centre in Lisbon where there are screen for each one of the radars transmitting images in real time. There should be a permanent average of 12 operators (watching the screens) but there are times when there are only two. Thus it is impossible to control and visualise everything…”
The December arrivals – now believed to have numbered 12, four of which managed to flee the dunes undetected – were logged by the system, says DN, but because they came into shore on a beach frequently used by fishing boats, no instant alarm was sounded.
It was only after locals contacted authorities that GNR police moved in.
Right from the start, the young men’s accounts raised suspicions that they had been brought over by people-traffickers, and transferred to the very basic fishing boat that they came to shore in close to the Algarve coast (click here).
Similar suspicions are paramount this week with the latest boat-load, this time carrying 11 Moroccan men.
Olhão mayor António Pina for example is in no doubt: “This is the second sign”, he told reporters on Wednesday. “We’ve had the first (in December) and now we have to look closely at all this… we cannot confuse migrants in the Mediterranean, Syria and Libya – where there really are wars and deplorable situations – with these people”.
GAR’s reasoning for the December group ran along the same lines.
Says DN: “GAR concluded that none of the conditions set out in the Asylum Law were met”.
The law is “very clear”. Rights of asylum are guaranteed to those who are “persecuted or seriously threatened with persecution as a result of activities carried out in the State of their nationality, or their habitual residence”.
Asylum also assured for people who fear persecution due to their race, religion, nationality, political opinions or integration within a certain social group, and due to that fear do not wish to return to their State of habitual residence/ nationality.
“None of these situations apply to the Moroccans”, said the GAR report, though this doesn’t mean the young men will be instantly ‘sent home’.
The youngest, said to be only 16, is living in a centre for refugee children and has already started school, while Minister of Internal Administration Eduardo Cabrita has said the others may be afforded residency ‘for exceptional humanitarian reasons’.