Researcher defends the end of expressions of interest for immigrants in Portugal

“Portugal is experiencing, in my opinion, not an immigration crisis, but a crisis of immigration policy and the institutions that deal with immigration”

Researcher Gonçalo Matias argued that the Government should review the entry rules for immigrants, with an end to expressions of interest, and proposes a system similar to what is already practiced in Canada or Germany.

“Portugal is experiencing, in my opinion, not an immigration crisis, but a crisis of immigration policy and the institutions that deal with immigration”, because the numbers of immigrants in the country are “perfectly within the European normality”, he told Lusa Gonçalo Matias, who was Secretary of State for the sector in the PSD/CDS government in 2015, which lasted just 27 days.

“For me, the big problem, besides the collapse of institutions and the inability to respond, the big problem in the law has to do with the so-called expressions of interest”, a legal resource that those arriving can request, even with a tourist visa.

In this expression of interest, immigrants can mention that they are looking for work and it is this resource that is motivating the large influx of cases before the Portuguese authorities.

“The expression of interest allowed many people to enter Portugal, some of them without adequate documentation, with processes that are poorly instructed”, which “also facilitated the work of clandestine trafficking networks that manage to take advantage of these gaps in the law to bring people illegally and take advantage of their vulnerability”, he explained.

Not including the cases that still need to be regularized, Portugal has 800 immigrants and “this, in European comparative terms, is not very high”, said the university professor.

In his opinion, the announced end of the Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF) took a long time to be implemented and there was a “very slow transfer” to the new organization that regulates the entry of immigrants, the Agency for Integration, Migrations and Asylum (AIMA): “this led to our Institutions collapsing and not being able to deal with the increase in immigration that we have seen over the last few years”.

Currently, the country has 400 pending cases, which “poses a serious problem for the country. Firstly, with regard to the dignity of the immigrants who come to us, who are left in a legal limbo and without protection of their rights and, on the other hand, putting at risk the perception of security on the part of Portuguese citizens”, said the professor from Catholic University.

The expert does not advocate quotas, but other solutions for recruiting foreign labor.

“Portugal really needs workers”, said Gonçalo Matias, giving the example of tourism or the agricultural sector. But this is only possible with “a functioning, controlled and regulated migration system”.

Firstly, he argued that pending processes must be ended in a timely manner and then follow international examples such as “Canada's points system, which has now been replicated by Germany for qualified workers”. This model evaluates the CV of each immigrant candidate and authorizes entry based on the country's needs.

“This has nothing to do with quotas, it does not impose numerical limits, but it identifies the areas where there are most needs and announces these areas”, he explained.

In the future, the researcher calls for a national consensus on this matter, taking into account the demographic crisis and the country's demographic deficit, with a “humanist system that works”.

Nowadays, in Portugal, we are witnessing anti-immigrant and xenophobic discourse, but Gonçalo Matias said that this situation is the result of global trends, “because the issue was at the top of the political agenda in other countries” and there was “some contagion”.

Added to this was “the large increase in the number of immigrants” and became visible to public opinion.

However, this is a topic that must be treated “rigorously, especially from a factual point of view and not feed fears that are unfounded” or “myths that have no reason to exist”, he added.