Manuel de Almeida/ Lusa

SEF’s extinction set for second delay

Catastrophic lack of planning: “first failure of new government”

Saturday’s ‘Correio Indiscreto’ in tabloid Correio da Manhã was already hinting at the shock of the new minister for interior administration in discovering, as he took up his post, that absolutely nothing had been done to prepare the way for the extinction of borders agency SEF, due to take place next month.

With SEF playing a crucial role in the processing of the tens of thousands of Ukrainians arriving in this country every day fleeing the conflict in their country (latest figures point to more than 26,000 requests for temporary protection having been granted by SEF), the truth is that a hiatus in the service’s organisation now would help no-one.

But the fact that absolutely nothing has been planned, in terms of which inspectors want to go to which police services, “caught the minister (José Luís Carneiro) “completely by surprise”, writes Miguel Alexandre Ganhão.

Other news media have picked up the story, all confirming that a second delay in SEF’s ‘extinction’ looks more than likely.

This has been the most shambolic ‘extinction’ of a service, from the outset.

Ganhão in his Correio Indiscreto page calls it “the first failure of the new government” – essentially before it has even got started.

Tomorrow, the syndicate of SEF inspectors will be meeting with the new minister with this one (massive) conundrum on the agenda.

The Ministry of Internal Administration meantime has assured reporters that the government “is working intensely and in articulation with all forces and services involved for the restructuring of SEF, leading to the organic separation between police functions and the administrative functions of authorising and issuing documents to immigrants, to take place within the time limits foreseen” (which were initially January 11 2022, and then passed to May 12).

Adding to the problem is the fact that SEF’s backlog when it comes to ‘non-urgent’ cases, like the renewing of residencies/ visas etc. is enormous, and growing by the day.

The Resident has received repeated emails from foreign residents, even holders of ‘so-called’ ‘Golden Visas’ or ARIs (authorisations of residency for investment) who have found themselves in limbo – many explaining that even getting through to SEF these days is a Herculean Task.

Last month, Correio da Manhã revealed that SEF inspectors were already ‘jumping ship’ due to the uncertainty at play.

And only last week the former GNR general appointed national director of SEF (with the brief to oversee the service’s extinction) resigned.

When he was appointed in December 2020, Luís Francisco Botelho Miguel was described as a “new broom” of “undisputed prestige”.

16 months on and we have arrived at the point where the service that needs to be radically reorganised has no-one at the helm, a massive backlog of ‘non urgent bureaucratic issues’, numerous ‘police cases’ on hold... and a new minister coming in to try and sort everything out.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com