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Last Updated: Monday, 14 November 2005, 19:27 GMT
Portugal sees integration progress
By Charis Dunn-Chan

Homeless Cape Verdeans in Lisbon
Some Cape Verdeans blame discrimination for their poverty
In Portugal the sea is never far away, and the distant lands once ruled by the Portuguese still enrich modern life, from architecture to cuisine.

Carlos Trindade describes Portugal's ethnic mix as "social soup". He is responsible for migration issues as an executive member of the national trade union federation, the CGTP.

He told me he was "confident that Portugal does not face the chaos of the French riots" which have grabbed Europe's attention.

The government says it is fully engaged with the issues of immigration and race.

Beach incident

An incident on a beach near Lisbon in June heightened concern about ethnic tensions in Portugal.

Mr Trindade said early media reports of hundreds of black youths from Cape Verde working in gangs and mugging beachgoers were exaggerated.

The police had later explained that the incident involved maybe 30-40 youths at most, Mr Trindade recalled.

But he said the incident had been a "signal" for those working in race relations - not just of the dangers of social exclusion, but also of over-reaction on the part of the media and the authorities.

Mario Lima Moreira, deputy president of the Cape Verde Association in Lisbon, also said the whole incident had been absurdly exaggerated, and not even one complaint of theft had been filed with the police.

According to Mr Moreira, in Portugal black immigrants "continue to face a greater challenge to find work and social acceptance than their 'whiter' counterparts from Brazil and recent immigrants from eastern Europe".

Mr Moreira believes black African immigrants often face "subtle discrimination".

He says Portugal has just one parliamentary deputy whose family comes from Cape Verde - Celeste Correia.


Carlos Trindade however puts such discrimination down to the issue of job qualifications held by immigrants.

Lisbon's Bario Alto quarter
Bario Alto, Lisbon: Portugal is in the grip of economic malaise
He said a recent influx of Ukrainian immigrants had been a success story because they usually hold good qualifications.

He said black immigrants often came from countries with a poorer social infrastructure.

Out on the street, three Cape Verdean men disagreed. Joseph Armando, Pedro Goncalves and Paolo Nazolini said that they all had professional backgrounds, but felt that colour was an issue when they went for jobs or housing.

By day, they camped and cooked on a city square, parking cars for odd change. By night, they slept in shelters or hostels.

Rui Marques, Portugal's High Commissioner for Immigration and Ethnic Minorities, says two ministers are focusing on migration issues. They are: the Minister of State for Internal Administration, Antonio Costa, and Minister of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, Pedro Silva Pereira.

Mr Marques believes that "this integrated approach has meant better bridge-building out to the immigrant community on a wide range of issues".

Help for illegals

He says even illegal immigrants to Portugal have the right to come to his office and seek help. Once in his building, they can ask for advice on their rights without facing arrest or deportation.

Cape Verde - 53,858 (21.5%)
Brazil - 26, 561 (10.6%)
Angola - 25,681 (10.2%)
Guinea-Bissau - 20,209 (8.1%)
UK - 16,784 (6.7%)
Spain - 15,329 (6.1%)
Dec 2003 data - main groups
Source: National Statistics Institute
Illegal immigrants are entitled to free medical care in cases of emergency, childbirth, their children's health, or tuberculosis, HIV/Aids and any other infectious diseases, he says.

But he added that no amnesty for illegals was likely from the Portuguese government.

He criticised the Spanish Socialist government's amnesty for illegals earlier this year, saying it had caused the chaos in Ceuta and Melilla, with refugees scrambling to enter Spain's North African enclaves.

According to Mr Marques, Portugal has about 400,000 legal immigrants in a population of 10 million. However, he acknowledged that there was no way of counting the illegals.

Mr Marques says Portugal only has a 4% immigrant population compared to Spain's 8%, but legal immigrant numbers have doubled in the past three years while Portugal's economic crisis has seen unemployment double since 2000.

Nevertheless, he says there is "no xenophobia crisis" in Portugal. In the last general election, the far right only managed to gain 10,000 votes nationally, he noted.

But he did warn that "things can change quickly" and that after the riots in France, Portugal would have to be "very attentive and very careful".

The government recently launched a public awareness campaign, to say "thank you" to immigrants and their families for their contribution to Portugal and their enrichment of Portuguese life, he said.

France's city policy in tatters
07 Nov 05 |  Europe
Country profile: Cape Verde
03 Nov 05 |  Country profiles
Anxious Portuguese swing left
21 Feb 05 |  Europe
Country profile: Portugal
04 Dec 04 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Portugal
13 Jul 04 |  Country profiles


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