Marcelo warns: Portugal may be one “small step” away from xenophobia

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President visited Nepalese in Olhão and apologizes to them for the assaults they were victims of. “How is it that we don’t understand what others feel here?”

The warning from the President of the Republic (PR) was made this Monday, speaking to journalists in Olhão, on the sidelines of a visit to a school, about the aggressions against Nepalese immigrants in that town (immigrants with whom, incidentally, Marcelo also met, apologizing to them)

While rejecting that Portugal is, in his view, a xenophobic country, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa added: “The aging of European societies has created what I call fear, a reactive, defensive attitude and, therefore, rejection of difference, and from there to xenophobia is a small step and you have to be aware of that small step because it means less democracy and even less respect for what is our experience as a country of emigrants.”

Therefore, being Portugal a country that has at least two million emigrants spread around the world (twenty percent of the resident population in the national territory), “we have an obligation to better understand” the foreign immigrants who have chosen Portugal to live. “How is it that we don’t understand what others feel here?”, asked the PR.

Marcelo also explained why he decided so quickly to visit the Nepalese that were assaulted in Olhão (the news was known Friday because one of the assaults was filmed and then broadcasted on social networks): “It is precisely when it happens, and that is why I went so fast, that these issues must be dealt with. Because if it happens in three months, four months, five months, six months, reality becomes trivialized. And as it becomes trivialized, it becomes considered normal what cannot be considered normal.”

The President also regretted the fire, Saturday, in a building of Mouraria, in Lisbon, which caused two deaths (one of them with 14 years) and 14 injured (five children), all Indian immigrants. According to information provided by the authorities, the building is inhabited mainly by Indian citizens and the fire affected 25 people (24 residents and one non-resident), leaving 22 homeless.

The association Renovar a Mouraria alerted to the “extremely fragile” situation in which lives a group of people, immigrants, who are “completely invisible”, but who make the city function in a development model based on tourism. “It is necessary to alert both national [citizens] and our rulers to the situation of extreme fragility in which lives a group of people who are completely invisible, but that, at the same time, is a group of people who make the city work within the development model based on tourism,” Filipa Bolotinha told Lusa.

The Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa provided accommodation to all displaced and Civil Protection assured that the building was not structurally affected. Carlos Lopes Loureiro, of the Lisbon Municipal Civil Protection Service, warned the owners that they must “quickly” promote works that restore habitability to the building.

The president of the parish council of Santa Maria Maior, socialist Miguel Coelho, pointed out that his municipality has no powers of supervision in matters of accommodation. Thus, he said, what is needed is a “huge” inspection by the Food and Economic Security Authority and the Municipal Police.

Portugal’s President apologizes to beaten Nepalese immigrant

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