End of SEF: Government expects transition to last three years

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The goal of the Executive is to officially begin restructuring the SEF in the first quarter, but the full completion of the plan will take much longer. Some decisions have already been made, but there is still a lot to know

The restructuring of the SEF, and consequent extinction, has a set time: it will be by the end of next March, a date advanced by the Government itself. The protocols for the transfer of SEF competences to GNR, PSP and PJ have already been signed and are in force. CNN Portugal/TVI understands that the Executive expects the transition process to last about three years.
One of the most complex situations and one that requires more time for the transition is at the borders. In other words, there is still no capacity to immediately replace the SEF inspectors working there. Neither on the part of the GNR, nor on the part of the PSP: in fact, there will be SEF elements that, even after being integrated into another police force, will have to remain at the borders for some time.
The protocols establishing the cooperation model between security forces and services signed on December 20, 2022 were a first official step in the SEF extinction plan. “The security forces are now empowered to cooperate in terms of police to ensure security and integrated border management, with a view to creating a common work culture, as happened during the summer between the PSP and SEF,” said at the time José Luís Carneiro, Minister of Internal Administration.
Despite the protocols, there is no official document on how the process will actually take place. That is, the process is not yet finalized. The various ministries involved in the restructuring are still to pronounce themselves and there is no official document on how the process will actually take place. There is also a lack of decree-laws to make the process viable. At this moment, CNN Portugal knows that the so-called legslative process is underway. It is certain that it will still have to go through the Ministry of Finance.

What will remain in the purview of the GNR and PSP?

The GNR will control land and sea borders, including cruise terminals. The PSP will be responsible for air borders. Throughout the national territory in both cases.

Will there still be SEF elements at the borders?

Yes, the SEF inspectors will not disappear from the borders. We don’t know how many, or for how long, but there are elements that will be stationed at the borders. Even if, in the meantime, they are already Judicial Police inspectors. The formula as to how they will be framed is not defined, but it should work as a kind of service commission.

What is one’s role at the borders?

The SEF will have to guarantee “adequate human resources” so that, once the security standards are met, “the procedures and the time for control are adequate for this purpose. And the GNR undertakes to support “with military personnel qualified with the training provided by SEF. And the military in these functions will have access “to all databases that the SEF staff has access to in the exercise of control of the passage of passengers and crew members.
Although they remain under the command of the GNR, the military will be “under functional dependence of the SEF.
The same procedure happens at airport borders, with the PSP. Both parties have to, in these locations, ensure resources for times of increased flow of passengers.

Has training been given to GNR and PSP elements?

So far, more than 150 GNR soldiers and about 160 PSP elements have already been trained and can be at the borders. A number that is still insufficient to guarantee their functions later on. Therefore, more training is necessary

Who moves to the Judiciary Police ?

The Judiciary Police will receive all inspectors from the Investigation and Inspection Career of the Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF) taking on the competencies of investigating human trafficking and illegal immigration.
The protocol now signed allows for “preparing the integration” of these elements in the PJ in different areas: “operational, in the development of prevention, detection and criminal investigation actions; coordination of operational activity; right of access to information; exchange of information and training.
Although the protocol foresees the possibility of mixed teams, in the field this is nothing new and has already happened in several situations. A joint and cooperative work.

Is the move to PJ for all inspectors?

Yes, even those who don’t want to go. However, the majority will have to accept the transition.

How many inspectors will be integrated?

The exact number of inspectors is not yet known. But SEF currently has between 800 and 900 inspectors. Some of them are considering asking to be made available. The number considered most likely to be around 600 elements.”

Who will take over SEF’s administrative functions?

The Portuguese Agency for Migration and Asylum (APMA) was created when the SEF was restructured and it will be this agency, together with the Institute of Registration and Notary Affairs (IRN), that will take over the administrative functions.

And what will happen to SEF employees who are not inspectors?

SEF employees who are not part of the Investigation and Inspection Career will all be transferred to APMA.
There are about 700 employees who will be transferred to the new agency. Everything indicates that APMA will maintain the current SEF structure and territorial organization. In other words, five regional directorates in the North, Center, Lisbon and Tagus Valley, Alentejo and Algarve. Just as it will maintain the delegations in each district.

Does APMA fall under the Ministry of Internal Affairs?

No. It will stay with the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Ana Catarina Mendes.

What are APMA’s attributions?

Initially called Serviço de Estrangeiros e Asilo (SEA), it was later decided that it would be called Agência Portuguesa para as Migrações e Asilo (APMA) (Portuguese Agency for Migration and Asylum). It will be responsible for the technical-administrative attributions in the implementation of migration policies, such as the areas of documentation, database management, relations and cooperation with other institutions, and external representation, namely in the scope of the Schengen Area and with the European border and asylum agencies.

Has APMA already been created?

The Portuguese Agency for Migration and Asylum (APMA) does not yet exist in fact or in law.

Is the transfer of competencies from SEF to GNR, PSP and PJ linked to the creation of APMA?

Yes. The processes need to happen simultaneously, on the same day. If APMA is created before the transfer of competencies and inspectors, they no longer have any function, because APMA has no police assignment.
This was not a peaceful process. In addition to the SEF unions’ own criticisms, many political parties also questioned in Parliament the need for this restructuring.
Even so, it ended up being approved in Parliament in November 2021. It has already been postponed twice, but the signing of the protocols lets us guess that the process will move forward.

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