The row over how Portugal came to harbour a suspected terrorist – conceding him refugee status and giving him a monthly allowance of €250 – continues to reverberate as media stories suggest he was even trying to recruit people to Islamic State at a refugee centre in Loures, on the outskirts of Lisbon.
Hicham el-Hafani – rounded up in a mega-operation in France earlier this week and believed to have been a fund-raiser for IS – arrived in Portugal aged 23 from Morocco.
According to Correio da Manhã he was conceded refugee status after claiming to be a member of the Ahmadi Muslim “20th of February” group.
But even before Hafani left the refugee centre, there were reports that he was “trying to recruit other refugees for terrorist activities”.
For reasons unexplained, these reports only reached the ears of PJ counter terrorism police “much later” when Hafani had been transferred to another foundation in Aveiro.
CM adds that Hafani and another young man with whom he travelled to Portugal were granted refugee status simply on the basis that they had no criminal records.
They entered the country on false passports, said the paper, claiming this was the only way they had been able to ‘escape’ Casablanca.
Borders control agency SEF has since opened an inquiry into how it appears to have been so easy for a man now suspected of having been in charge of “organising European finance” for IS to clinch residency that left him free to travel throughout Schengen countries.
CM says Hafani’s Portuguese residency is valid until 2019. There were no restrictions on where he should live, and he is believed to have been absent from Portugal for at least one if not two years.
As French police try and work out what venues the purported terrorists were targeting, Portuguese minister for social services Vieira da Silva has admitted “possible failings in communication” between his personnel and security services.
According to Silva however, Hafani was financed by the state because he was deemed to be a “person in need”.
PHOTO: the refugee centre in Loures where el-Hafani is suspected of having tried to recruit people to Islamic State