In order to ensure public healthcare services for the more fragile sections of its population, the Portugese government has decided to grant the same rights as residents to immigrants and asylum seekers with a pending residence permit, at least until July 1st.
Due to the health emergency caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, the Portuguese government has decided to grant all immigrants in Portugal with a pending residence permit at the Serviço de Estrangeiros and Fronteiras – Sef the same rights as residents, up to at least July 1st. The provision also applies to asylum seekers. The Portuguese authorities announced this on March 28th, to guarantee migrants access to their health system and public services during the pandemic. Migrants must demonstrate that the residence permit application was submitted by the date of the state of emergency declaration in Portugal on March 19.
“People should not be deprived of the right to health and public service simply because the request for regularization of their documents has not yet been processed,” said Claudia Veloso, a spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior. “In this exceptional period, migrants’ rights must be guaranteed,” she concluded.
The website of the Directorate-General for Health reports that to date there are 8251 confirmed cases of contagion and 187 deaths, much lower figures than in neighboring Spain. Health authorities expect cases to peak in late May.
Ensuring access to migrant citizens for health, social security and employment and housing stability is a duty of an ethical society in times of crisis.
Interior Minister Eduardo Cabrita, who oversees the Sef, said in Público, one of the main Portuguese national newspapers: “In a state of emergency, the priority is the defense of collective health and safety. It is in these moments that it becomes even more important to guarantee the rights of the most fragile, as in the case of migrants. Ensuring access to migrant citizens for health, social security and employment and housing stability is a duty of a solidarity society in times of crisis “.
In Portugal there are 580 thousand migrants. A record figure for the country, announced by Cabrita in a parliamentary hearing in mid-January 2020. “Preliminary data suggest that in 2019, for the first time in our history, the figure of half a million foreign citizens living in Portugal, “ he told Publico.
Portugal’s decision was welcomed by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, who considered it “good practice” in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.