Coronavirus Covid 19: Portugal grants temporary citizenship rights to migrants
In a global unique and first government humanitarian act the Portuguese government is granting citizenship rights to all migrants and asylum seekers who have residency applications underway.
The move is intended to ensure everybody who needs it has access to social security and health care while the country battles the spread and effects of coronavirus. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Portuguese Government has decided that all immigrants with residence permit applications that were pending at the Aliens and Borders Office (SEF) on 18th March will receive permission for temporary residence and have access to the same rights as all other citizens, including social support. The measure also includes asylum seekers.
Recently the total number of infections in Portugal stood at 7,443, with 160 deaths - the country sentiment is -14.28.
Police have been stepping up surveillance measures to enforce social distancing, with the use of drones in Porto and Lisbon.
And in the capital, the army is distributing food to the homeless, as the country attempts to battle the coronavirus that has caused lockdowns around the world.
Those who are in the process of applying for citizenship will be granted citizenship rights until at least July 1, the government announced on Saturday.
All migrants in Portugal will be treated as permanent residents until 1 July to ensure they have access to public services during the coronavirus outbreak, Reuters reports.
Claudia Veloso, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Internal Affairs, told the news agency:
"People should not be deprived of their rights to health and public service just because their application has not yet been processed. In these exceptional times, the rights of migrants must be guaranteed."
Applauding the decision, Richard Danziger, a regional director of UN Migration, said Regional Director, said: “People should not be deprived of their rights to health and public service just because their application has not yet been processed.”
The Minister of Internal Affairs, Eduardo Cabrita, said it is "important to guarantee the rights of the most fragile, as is the case of immigrants".
"It is a duty of a society of solidarity in times of crisis to ensure that immigrant citizens have access to health and social security," he explained.
The SEF order was first published by national newspaper Diário da República, asserting that the goal of the new measure was to “unequivocally guarantee the rights of all foreign citizens with processes pending.”
Speaking to the PÚBLICO the leading portuguese news agency, the Minister of Internal Administration, Eduardo Cabrita, who oversees the SEF, said: “In a State of Emergency, the priority is the defence of collective health and safety. It is in these moments that it becomes even more important to guarantee the rights of the most fragile, as is the case of migrants. Ensuring the access of migrant citizens to health, social security and job and housing stability is a duty of a solidary society in times of crisis”.
The SEF has not yet provided the number of immigrants with pending applications. But, Mr. Cabrita clarified that current pending citizenship application through this service will resume from July 1st in chronological order. In other words, citizenship requests made to SEF haven’t simply been thrown out, they will resume when services return to normal. Applicants will have to wait for some form of contact from the SEF to receive their rescheduled appointments, the press office said.
One of the most common ways for an immigrant to apply for a residence permit for labour reasons, under articles 88 and 89 of the foreigners’ law, is to have an employment contract and to pay social security. Recent legal changes allow immigrants who have been working and paying their social security contributions for at least 12 months to obtain a residence permit even if they did not enter the country following regular procedures.
The latest data show that immigrants bring a positive net balance to the State of € 651 million, contributing € 746.9 million while receiving € 95.6 million in benefits.