Dozens of people slept outside tonight to get a ticket from the Citizen’s Bureau in Lisbon, a scenario that is repeated daily and has even prompted volunteers to bring them food.
Mohammed Badru, from Bangladesh, told Lusa that he arrived at the Citizen’s Bureau in Laranjeiras at 10pm on Tuesday, prepared to spend the night on the street in exchange for the guarantee of being attended to by a tax official.
Badru was first in line today. Kul Pragal, from Nepal, also needed to do some paperwork at the tax office and arrived a few minutes after Bradu. Kul was the 3rd to put his name on a sheet of A4 paper, which one of the attendees prudently took from home.
“As they arrive here, people write down their names so there’s no confusion, because we spend the night here, we’re asleep and in the morning, when they open the doors, there could be confusion in the order. This way there are no problems,” Fernando, who arrived at 11.30pm to deal with documents at the Tax Office and Social Security, told Lusa. At 6:30am, the list had 66 registered.
“I’m from São Tomé and I’ve slept on the floor to get food, but never to process documents,” criticized Fernando, who didn’t want to give his surname, even though his name appeared in 6th place on the list.
Next to him, Manuel Afonso was 7th on the list. He also arrived on Tuesday and, from the conversation, he was a repeat visitor. He told Lusa that “there was a day when, at one in the morning, some volunteers showed up offering bread”.
Today, his goal was to get a ticket for a lady from Brazil. Manuel arrived the day before, slept on the floor and when the lady arrived in the morning, she had a wooden box, usually used by mini-markets to store fruit and vegetables, so she could sit and wait for the store to open.
They didn’t want to explain to Lusa why the São Toméan had stood in a queue all night to save room for someone else.
The woman, who didn’t want to give her name, said that she first tried unsuccessfully to make an appointment online at all the tax offices in Lisbon. “I managed to get an appointment at the Coimbra office and went there, but when I arrived, the employee told me that the system was down, and I went back to Lisbon with nothing taken care of,” she said.
The solution was Manuel Afonso. When asked if she had paid for the ticket, she remained silent. However, other people waiting in the queue, like Neusa Figueira, told Lusa that “there are people who come here just to sell tickets afterwards”.
When the doors of the Citizen’s Bureau opened at 8:30, there were 178 people waiting. A PSP agent told Lusa that “for what is usual, there are very few people”.
“Some days the queue goes around the block. But there’s no reason for them to come here at night. There are people who arrive in the middle of the afternoon and manage to get their documents done without any problems,” she said.
However, seven minutes after the doors opened, a Loja do Cidadão employee announced: “There are no more passwords for the tax number. It’s sold out”. Manuel Afonso managed to get a ticket without any problems, unlike Mirian Sala, who had been waiting since five in the morning.
“I urgently need to regularize my situation. I know there are lawyers who ask for 50 euros for each document. For example, it’s 50 euros to process the NIF, and another 50 euros to process the user card. I think it’s wrong, but even if I didn’t, I couldn’t afford it either,” she said, speaking of the “illegal services” that are passed around by word of mouth among immigrants: “It’s like a mafia. They asked me if I wanted to, but I don’t have any money.”
Those who can’t risk not getting a ticket arrive at the door of the services late at night, like Maria Capitão, who left Alfornelos at dawn to be at Laranjeiras at five in the morning.
The 33-year-old woman, who was eight months pregnant, waited for three hours until a PSP officer asked the staff at the Citizen’s Bureau to let her come in and wait in one of the chairs.
“I had to take a cab, I spent 7.90 euros, because there’s no public transport here at that time,” she said, recalling that at 5am there were already 32 people in front of her, but she was “lucky enough to be pregnant and have priority”.
At 09:00 there was no longer a queue outside the Citizen’s Bureau. Teresa Fonseca arrived shortly afterwards, took a ticket for Social Security and told Lusa that she was unaware of people sleeping outside to make sure they would be seen.
An employee at the Citizen’s Bureau confirmed to Lusa that “the passwords for the Tax Office and Social Security always run out, it’s just a matter of hours. Today it was the tax office.
The tax office is open in the morning on a first-come, first-served basis and in the afternoon by appointment. But there are only 25 passwords a day and, inside, despite there being six counters, there were only two employees attending to the public at 9am today.