Lisbon City Council guarantees answers for homeless immigrants in Anjos

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The Lisbon City Council (CML) assures that there are enough answers to welcome the homeless immigrants near the Anjos Church, who were the target of an identification operation by the authorities today.

Speaking to journalists, Councillor Sofia Athayde, who is responsible for human and social rights, referred to a “giant delay” on the part of the Agency for Integration, Migration and Asylum (AIMA) in resolving this issue, which has led to the concentration of around a hundred people in tents at this location in the parish of Arroios, and underlined the warnings that the municipality has made over time regarding the lack of documentation for these people.

“We can’t continue to have this situation. It’s a public health risk for people and the community. That’s why we’ve come to build this response. We’re not going to go along with perpetuating people in this situation,” he said, continuing: “We have several reception centers. CML has countless responses that can be given to these people and others have to be taken in too.”

Sofia Athayde explained that the joint action with different entities – including AIMA, Comunidade Vida e Paz, PSP, Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa, Junta de Freguesia de Arroios and the SNS – will continue for days and that there is no fixed deadline for the almost 100 people to leave the site, for which redevelopment has already been announced.

“We’re going to have to listen to them and understand their situation. These people have been asking to be settled for months and these situations have to be resolved”, he stressed, adding: “When we have this number of tents we can’t wait any longer and we have to act, with humanity, dignity and respect for the people who are here”.

According to the coordinator of the Homeless Planning and Intervention Center, Paulo Santos, who was also on site today, the responses for these immigrants include rooms, boarding houses and collective centers, as well as “more individualized responses”, such as Housing First or transitional apartments for people in a context of employability.

Faced with the position taken by CML, activist Mariana Carneiro, from the organization Solidariedade Imigrante, lamented that “immigration law is not being enforced in the country” and assured that migrant support associations will be vigilant and fight against what she considered to be “collective and forced expulsions” from Portuguese territory.

“Illegal is the way we continue to treat immigrants in Portugal. We’re going to be attentive and find out what answers are going to be given to these people. We hope it won’t be to move them from one block to another or to let them get into vans without knowing where they’re going and without any accompaniment. Don’t think that these people can be swept up like garbage,” he warned, guaranteeing that “there is no basis for expelling these people”.

While the identification actions were taking place in the Civil Protection tents set up next to the Church of the Angels, lawyer Érica Acosta, together with another colleague, tried to support the migrants, explaining that “most of them are asylum seekers whose applications have been deemed inadmissible” and that “many didn’t have the notifications because they live on the street and don’t have an address to receive a notification”.

“We’re trying to apply for a residence permit under Article 123, which is an exceptional regime for humanitarian reasons – obvious because they’re in a situation of complete indignity – and expressions of interest for those who already have the documentation and can make use of it, because at least they start the regulatory process,” he noted.

One of the Gambian immigrants living in a tent there said that he left his country “maybe five months ago” with a friend, first to Senegal and from there by boat to Spain, and then by bus to Portugal, even though he didn’t know anyone in Portuguese territory.

“I’ve been living here in a tent for five or six days. Before that I was in Aveiro and also in Spain. I thought I could have a better life here and I made that decision,” said the 21-year-old immigrant. He stressed that he works in the construction sector, but currently has no job and had his asylum application rejected: “They explained to me that they couldn’t give me asylum and said I could appeal”.

Regarding the operation, AIMA only confirmed its participation in the action and indicated that it was “providing support within the scope of its attributions”, as part of the institutions mobilized by CML “to find appropriate solutions to the needs of homeless citizens, both Portuguese and foreign, who are near the Anjos Church”.

However, when questioned last week by Lusa about this situation, AIMA assured that it “presented reception solutions to all the applicants for international protection, including those who had their request decided to be unfounded”, but that some – mostly nationals of Senegal and Gambia – “chose, by their own decision, to forego all the proposed solutions and remain on the street”.

According to AIMA, between October 29, 2023 (the date on which the abolition of the Aliens and Borders Service became official) and March 31, 2024, more than 1,900 applications for international protection were received, of which approximately 40% were from citizens of Senegal and Gambia.

This year alone there have been around 1,100 spontaneous asylum applications, compared to 2,701 in 2023.

Hervé Hubert
Hervé Hubert
Hervé Hubert is a 55-year-old writer and journalist based in Porto, Portugal. Born in France, he brings a unique blend of French and Portuguese perspectives to his work. Education Hervé studied Journalism and Literature at the University of Lyon in France. After completing his studies, he gained valuable experience working with various French media outlets (Portugal France also). Career He worked for several years as a journalist in France before making the move to Portugal. In Porto, he joined the Portugal Pulse team as a staff writer. Skills Hervé specializes in storytelling, investigative journalism, and cultural commentary. He has a flair for capturing complex issues in a relatable way. Personal Life He currently resides in Porto and enjoys the city's rich culture, from Fado music to Francesinha cuisine. Hervé continues to maintain strong ties to his French heritage, often traveling back to France for family visits and cultural exploration. With his unique background and diverse skill set, Hervé Hubert adds a layered, multicultural lens to every story he covers.

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