Three families of refugees living without water or electricity in Coimbra

President of Portugal’s refugee council Teresa Tito Morais has called for “urgent review” of the system designed to support refugees after three families were found living in Coimbra without water or electricity because they had failed to pay their rent.

Morais told Lusa that the 18-months given to refugees to integrate is simply not enough, as the process is mired with difficulties – not least regarding refugees finding work.

This appears to have been the root cause here for the Syrian families in Miranda do Corvo being unable to pay their rent.

Jaime Ramos, president of the foundation in whose properties the families are living explained that the time had come “according to the rules” for each family to be “responsible for paying their rent, water, electricity and expenses”.

The families however have complained that the rent, at €340 for a 3-bedroom apartment, is simply too high.

Explaining the situation to reporters, two of the Syrian men said that each family receives “around €500 a month from Social Security.

“If we pay €340 in rent, what do we have to live on”, queried the men who fled the war in their own country, and passed through Egypt before arriving in Portugal.

Say reports, “one of the families has three children, another has two and one has an 18-month-old. The families are all very apprehensive. Their fear the cold forecast over the next few days bearing in mind their apartments already have a lot of damp that is visible on the walls and ceilings”.

“We want to get out of here (meaning the damp properties) but we cannot rent anywhere else as people are asking €500 to €600 per month”, stressed one of the refugees – a driver by profession who says he has been unable to find work.

Another obstacle is the language. According to Lusa, the families never concluded their Portuguese language training as the teacher accompanying them left and has not been replaced.

The day the families’ utilities were disconnected, GNR police oversaw the whole process.

As Teresa Tito Morais has commented, there would appear to be “a lot more to do for the integration of refugees. There should be concerted policies in different ministerial areas and among civil society”.

But until we hear otherwise, the three families remain in damp, cold apartment without access to running water.

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