25th Sep 2020

Lisbon stops legalisation of immigrants after avalanche of applications

  • Around 9.9% of the 5.8 million people workforce in Portugal are foreigners (Photo: EUobserver)

A new Portuguese law regularising illegal immigrants has been suspended only a few weeks after coming into effect following huge interest from hopeful immigrants.

In the first five days after the law came into effect on 3 August, the government's Service of Foreigners and Borders (SEF) – which is responsible for carrying out the legalisation process – registered 900,000 calls while immigrants from Spain and Italy joined the queue outside the building, reports Portuguese daily the Público.

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Portugal has a population of 10.2 million, of whom 420,000 are legal immigrants and another 150,000 are undocumented immigrants, according to estimates by non-governmental organizations in the Iberian country.

This means Portugal has one of the highest ratios of immigrant to native population in the European Union.

According to the government in Lisbon, the law was suspended because they detected it had a so-called "calling effect" seeing immigrants arriving from other parts of Europe and because certain "intermediates without scruples" were taking advantage of the "extraordinary regulation".

The new law foresees that only immigrants that already have an employment contract and are enrolled in the social security system can be legalised.

This is not the first time a member state has granted an immigration amnesty.

Fellow EU member states Spain and Italy were criticised by EU justice and home affairs commissioner Franco Frattini as well as now French president Nicolas Sarkozy when they regularised illegal immigrants in 2005 and 2006 respectively.

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