Fourteen years after the law established the need for lawyers to help immigrants prevented from entering the country, Portuguese airports now have this type of legal obligation.
The Brazilians easily lead the classification of nationalities prohibited on arrival in Portugal. Over the past three years, the amount has quadrupled. In 2019, the latest year for which information is available, 2,900 Brazilians were arrested at the country’s airports: almost 8 per day.
The duty of lawyers came into force on Monday (8).
The main gateway for foreigners to Portuguese territory, Lisbon airport will have a team on site every day, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
At the other terminals – Porto, Faro, Funchal, Porto Santo, Ponta Delgada and Lages – and at other times in Lisbon there will be lawyers on call, who will visit the airports only when assistance is needed.
“A foreign citizen who does not know our language, let alone knows our laws. Perhaps this scale will fill a void that existed here, between the rights that citizens have when they enter the national territory and that they are not aware of it ”, declared Bruno Zangado, the first lawyer in the country. scale of the project.
Since 2007, the law on foreigners provides for the implementation of this protocol. However, the collaboration was only signed in November 2020, with the impact of the death of a Ukrainian citizen in the remand center at Lisbon airport, where foreigners prevented from entering the country are taken.
The autopsy indicated that Ihor Homeniuk, 40, died of suffocation after suffering several assaults. Three inspectors from the SEF (Foreigners and Borders Service) are currently on trial for murder in this case.
The episode, in March 2020, took on great proportions a few months later, with the disclosure of a succession of errors and irregularities. In addition to not having access to a lawyer or translator, the Ukrainian also suffered for several hours without receiving assistance.
Although he did not establish a direct link between the absence of a lawyer and the death of Ihor Homeniuk, the president of the Portuguese Bar Association, Luís Menezes Leitão, reported that the outcome of the he Ukrainian case could have been different.
“I am convinced that, if there had been a lawyer, this situation would not have happened in these terms. If there was already a scale established here, it certainly would not be possible to do something similar.” , did he declare.
Asked about the reasons for the delay in implementing the legal obligation, the OLHI chief said previous governments “lacked political will”.
SEF’s national director, Luís Francisco Botelho Miguel, celebrated the start of legal change, but said immigrants were not helpless before.
“Citizens who have been refused entry have already benefited from the assistance of a lawyer, but for a much longer time, and the lawyers have had contact with citizens in the middle of the airport. For the moment, the center has a reserved and dignified space for a citizen to receive legal assistance, ”he said.
To mark the beginning of the collaboration between SEF and the Bar Association, a joint visit of the heads of the two entities took place in the renovated facilities of the Temporary Installation Center.
The place now barely resembles the space where the attacks on the Ukrainian took place. Now the accommodation is divided into a male wing and a female wing.
Instead of bunk beds and mattresses, there are single rooms. There is also a room for families and another for people with reduced mobility, as well as a prayer room, a living area and a laundry room.
Although it has been celebrated by many immigrant associations, some believe that the legal obligation is still insufficient.