The 33 people, who landed in the Portuguese capital on Monday and today, are the first of 1,010 refugees whom Portugal pledged to admit from camps in Turkey and Egypt by October 2019 in the framework of the current EU resettlement programme.
This is the most ambitious resettlement programme carried out in Portugal to date and “demonstrates the country’s strong commitment to refugee protection,” according to the UNHCR.
Under previous programmes, some 30-45 individuals came to Portugal each year, increasing to approximately 180 over a two-year period between 2016 and 2017. In addition, Portugal accepted some 1,500 asylum-seekers from Italy and Greece between 2015 and 2017 under an EU relocation programme.
“These refugees have found a durable solution to their plight and will now be able to rebuild their lives,” said UNHCR’s Director of the Bureau for Europe, Pascale Moreau, possibly unaware of the 40% of refugees to Portugal that left within 18-months of arrival.
Municipal authorities and NGOs throughout Portugal should be offered initial support with housing and basic needs while they learn the Portuguese language and then look for employment. The refugees will have access to healthcare and education, as well as professional and vocational training.
The UNHCR thanked the Portuguese government for making resettlement, “an effective, durable solution for these families whose lives have been convulsed by violence and persecution, as well as all the NGOs and municipal authorities involved in welcoming them and providing them with the care they need.”
“Today’s arrivals are a concrete gesture of solidarity by Portugal in providing refugee resettlement places that are so badly needed,” added Moreau. In 2017, for every 21 refugees in need of resettlement globally, only one departed to a resettlement state.
Picture © UNHCR/José António de Oliveira Ventura