|João Vasconcelos e Tânia Dias do CPR nos estúdios da RDP África Foto: ©CPR
LISBON, 14th of April 2013 (CPR) -
Having fled their own country because of armed conflict, persecution and violation of human rights and having sought protection from forced return in a
country of refuge – this is the common story of most refugees. Men, women, sometimes minors who have travelled for many kilometers in order to
reach a ‘safe’ country where to plead their own case before the authorities and to be allowed to settle.
Which long lasting perspectives of settlement once granted refugee status do they have? What about the real chances of integration among the
communities of their country of refuge?
Joao Vasconcelos and Tania Dias, who work with the Portuguese Refugee Council (CPR), discussed the Portuguese resettlement program and their own experience
of working with resettled refugees in Portugal in the radio programme “Sou refugiado”, aired by the public radio broadcaster RDP África on the 14 th of April 2013.
Joao Vasconcelos started by explaining that resettlement consists of the transfer of refugees from the state in which they have first sought protection to
a third state that has agreed to admit them with a permanent residence status.
“What happens in many cases –
– is that refugees first flee to a country where for example their security remains at jeopardy or where there are strict encampment policies with
limited freedom of movement or access to basic services such as education. A durable solution for their refuge is therefore not a realistic prospect in
that country and this is where the Portuguese resettlement programme comes into play.”
Up to 2013, the Portuguese program resettled 164 refugees of 14 different nationalities. In most cases these were families, and 2012 Portugal received for
the first time unaccompanied minors, as a result of the inauguration of CPR’s Reception Centre for Refugee Children, in Lisbon. These was a highly
vulnerable group, given we are talking about orphans, victims of sexual violence and human trafficking.
“The countries where they had initially settled were clearly unequipped to provide them with adequate protection arrangements and the decision to
resettle them in Portugal was therefore taken as a last resort, given that in the case of unaccompanied minors family reunification is always
considered a priority
.’ he added.
Traditionally, however, Europe is not the main destination of resettled refugees as over 90% of them are resettled in the United States, Canada and
Australia. These last years, many Member States have started resettlement programs with the support of the European Union but the overall number of
refugees resettled in our continent is still low, at around 8% of the total.
According to Tânia Dias, when adult resettled refugees arrive in Portugal, they are received at CPR’s Refugee Reception Centre, located in the Municipality
of Loures, where they can live temporarily, usually from 3 to 6 months. A team composed of social workers, legal officers and a language trainer offers
support in building an individual integration plan and a concrete life project. They are welcomed in collective information sessions, where they are given
information about services, Portuguese culture and society, housing and job opportunities.
The role Portugal is playing with its resettlement programme is a relevant one and its relevance is increasing by the year: “Our aim –Dias said –
is to make them feel safe in order to consider Portugal the country in which they want to settle, and not just a transit place in their onwards route
as was the case of their initial country of asylum that hosted them before.”
Written by Alice Tusarelli and João Vasconcelos (CPR)