Yazidi refugees “didn’t even stay a week in Portugal”

It’s a new embarrassment for a country that appears to be haemorrhaging refugees: of the 24 Yazidi’s taken in after huge effort on the part of MEP Ana Gomes and other humanitarian entities, only one is still in the country – almost all of them left Portugal within a week of their arrival.

Diário de Notícias actually calls their flight “illegal abandonment”, as the terms of these people’s asylum means they will be ordered to return to national soil when/ if they are detected.

But the law is peverse, explains Gomes. Municipalities that take refugees in (in this case, Guimarães council) are responsible for their permanence “but cannot impede departures, as refugees are at liberty to circulate” throughout Europe’s Schengen space.

Guimarães will, for example, have told the group that they stood to lose all their rights to help and support the minute they turned their backs on the asylum programme – but as Gomes explains, this won’t have made much difference to people who may have arrived with completely different ideas over what they mean to do with their futures than may be possible for them in Portugal.

A reader’s comment on DN puts this likelihood starkly, with the question: “Why would they want to stay if Costa wants them to clean our forests?” (referring to prime minister António Costa’s plan, announced last year, to take in double the amount of refugees set out by European quotas, to help clear Portugal’s overgrown forestland).

“I am extremely sad that this happened”, Gomes agreed. “I feel frustrated and fear it could put off people who have worked so hard to get these refugees to come to Portugal”.

Gomes exonerated national and local authorities over “any responsibility”, saying the problems almost certainly stemmed from the “excessive delay” in getting the Yazidis cleared for placement in the first place (click here).

Guimarães council, as well as prime minister Costa’s ‘deputy’ Eduardo Cabrita – heavily involved in efforts to bring in refugees – were apparently unavailable for comment.

Meantime, the only Yazidi who has remained in Guimarães claims to have written to president Marcelo asking for help to study in Portugal and work.

Saman Ali is purportedly a professor of biology. When he arrived in Portugal, he was widely photographed carrying an announcement with the words: “Thank you, Portugal. I love you”.

DN says it is his dream to be given permanent asylum here and to work “for the rest of his life” in Portugal.

But the letter Ali is understood to have written President Marcelo has not received a reply.

According to DN, Belém palace officials say they have no record of ever having received it.

This latest story adds to the embarrassment of media reports that as many as 40% of Portugal’s refugees have already left the country (click here).

The situation has prompted both Bloco de Esquerda and PSD MPs to demand an up to date report on the what is really going on with refugee programmes set up 18 months ago.

Readers may recall that there has been controversy over refugees arriving in Portugal going on to recruit for terrorist organisatons like Daesh (click here).

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