Portugal’s prime minister argued today that the countries of the European Union have a duty to welcome refugees and criticized those member States that complain and protest against the idea of taking them in.
“When we, who live in a richer continent with more opportunities for human beings to develop – the European Union – we hear voices complaining and protesting against the idea that Europe has the duty to welcome these human beings, we can not help but feel shocked and angry,” said António Costa at the inauguration of the third and largest refugee shelter in the country, at São João da Talha in Loures, at the northern edge of the Greater Lisbon area.
“It is unworthy for Europe to want to discuss its capacity to accommodate refugees – it should be borne in mind that Jordan alone has welcomed as many refugees as the 28 Member States of the European Union,” added the PM.
“We do not even have the right to discuss whether or not we have capacity when we see other countries, much poorer than any in the European Union, assuming a much greater responsibility than we are assuming,” continued the premier.
The prime minister praised Portugal and the work, not only of his government but the previous one also, on this topic of refugees,
“This is why I am very proud that there has been a very broad political consensus in Portugal on migration policies in general and, in particular, on the refugee policy which, during this government, it has been possible to continue without open conflict or giving way to the populist opportunism that today seems to be very much in vogue in some areas of the world.”
Despite Costa’s appealing humanitarian pose, Portugal’s government has failed to attract significant numbers of refugees. The current estimate is that around 1,500 have been accepted by Portugal, 40% of whom leave within 18 months of arrival, seeking better conditions and opportunities in northern Europe.
Portugal is required to take in 2,951 asylum seekers from camps in Greece and Italy under the EU emergency relocation scheme, the vast majority coming from the Middle East.
The government managed to get its quota upped to 4,600 but still struggles to attract the requisite numbers.
When this debate opened at EU level, the prime minister stated that he would take in 10,000 refugees, later upping this figure but the cost of settling people who soon leave the country, has thwarted the government’s best intentions.