The murder of Ihor Homeniuk sparked outrage around SEF and this wave of indignation led the Government to declare the transfer of SEF functions to other entities. Inspectors are unhappy about this decison and went on strike on 7 May, which affected the operation of airports.
The Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service’s (SEF) reputation will never been the same again. More than a year after the death of the Ukrainian citizen, Ihor Homeniuk, a victim of SEF inspectors, the three men accused of the murder, on 10 May, were sentenced to nine and seven years in prison.
Regarding their conviction, the lawyer of Ihor Homeniuk's family said, after the judgment, that the convictions of the three SEF inspectors will set an “example”.
However, it will not be an example for SEF inspectors, seeing that the Government published in Diário da República a resolution that foresees the transfer of SEF competences to other entities, which implies its extinction.
The resolution defines the guidelines for the creation of the Foreigners and Asylum Service (SEA), which will succeed SEF. Also the new guidelines foresee a new very clear separation between police functions and administrative functions for the authorisation and documentation of immigrants.
Additionally, it determines that SEF police duties will be transferred to the Republican National Guard (GNR), Public Security Police (PSP) and Judicial Police (PJ), as well as the powers that will be transferred to the Institute of Registries and Notaries, with the Foreigners and Asylum Service remaining with “technical-administrative tasks”.
Against the extinction of SEF powers are the workers unions. Acácio Pereira, president of SCIF / SEF, said that “the extinction of SEF would have the immediate effect of distributing its functions to five or more entities, which would deteriorate the service provided to citizens, nationals and foreigners, with more bureaucracy, more delays, less security and less respect for human rights”.
For this reason, the Union for the Investigation and Inspection of the Foreigners and Borders Service (SCIF / SEF) and supported by the SEF Employees Union (SINSEF) and of the Union of Investigators, Inspection and Borders Inspectors (SIIFF), went on strike on Friday, 7 May, which affected the operation of airports, leaving passengers in queues for hours.
Passengers were left waiting without answers for long hours without any information, this was the scene in Lisbon airport on the day of the strike that Nicole Siebel, who arrived from Newark to Lisbon, witnessed it in the first person and told The Portugal News.
“We ended up waiting three hours. We were in the all passport side. We had one SEF person processing people on our side for the first hour. We were made to stand and wait while the EU citizen side had two people who processed their smaller line. After 30 to 40 minutes of waiting, two new SEF officials arrived. The room was hot. We had no access to water nor bathrooms”, she said.
“Then it was spotty bouts of yelling and screaming and trying to get someone to help us”, added Nicole, who believes that although these strikes are rightful, they must not be at the expense of those who have nothing to do with the problem.
“I agree with strong unions working together for solutions. But instead of that, innocent bystanders were subjected to conditions that were unacceptable. This strike wasn't a surprise. There should have been a plan put in place so that the international terminal of the capital city airport of Portugal was not brought to a standstill”, said Nicole Siebel.