“We are tired of this situation, the biggest reason for the demonstration is despair, they force us to be in the system where we are in search of a vacancy for the last 24 hours, and we are workers, we are not criminals, we pay taxes, and the Government must see that", told Lusa the organizer of the demonstration, Juliete Cristina. For this Brazilian, who has been in Portugal since 2019 without getting a residence permit, the password allocation system through a computer platform of the Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF) encourages illegalities and extortion.
"There are people who make it by luck, others are paying, a lawyer tried to charge me 300 euros [for a vacancy to attend SEF], and a person in a moment of despair, after being here for three or four years, ends up paying , but I don't pay, because that's unfair," said the immigrant in statements to Lusa at Terreiro do Paço, in Lisbon.
Immigrants currently concentrated in Lisbon defend that the granting of a residence permit should be done in chronological order and that the process be automated from the moment that SEF gives the 'green light' to the reception of the documents, which are delivered digitally, arguing that "there is no reason to stay in this agony" after the documents are approved. "We put the document on the online portal, we wait up to 90 days for the SEF to approve the document, which is the legal deadline, but it takes eight months to a year for approval, and then there is still another platform to schedule, and what we ask is that it is done in chronological order," explained Juliete Cristina. "Those who arrive now don't have a job, have time to watch their cell phone all the time, and get a job, and I've been here for two years paying taxes and contributing to Social Security, I can't, this is unfair", pointed.
For the organizer of the demonstration, this situation is equivalent to an arrest and a withdrawal of rights such as traveling, buying a car or even finding a job. "We don't have the right to go to another country, we don't have the right to live, we're stuck in this country. I can't travel in the European Union because I don't have a residence, we're tied up, it's not just Brazilians or Africans, it's everyone, this happen to all immigrants, we are treated like garbage".
The Associação Solidariedade Imigrante recently denounced to Lusa that there are “authentic mafias” selling SEF appointments to immigrants for hundreds of euros. “The organized mafias and law firms take all the appointments. When they open appointments, they last 15 minutes on the SEF platform”, maintained the association's president, realising that immigrants are “being exploited” when they are charged “hundreds of euros for an appointment”. In early June, the Minister of Internal Affairs recognised in parliament that there is an “illegitimate appropriation” of digital agendas in SEF for immigrants, advancing that this system is currently under review.
Eduardo Cabrita underlined that internal investigations and the Public Ministry did not investigate criminal responsibility, but identified “erroneous practices, especially of some law firms that in the end monopolized the openings of digital appointments”, having been “set limits to the number of appointments made”. The Left Block has denounced that there are immigrants who take more than two years to get an appointment at the Foreigners and Borders Service, as well as the difficulties in accessing the SAPA platform.
In June, the SEF informed Lusa that the vacancies to assist immigrants who have processes pending in that service are “fully filled by 30th October” and there is no forecast of opening new vacancies. Data released at that time also indicated that 223,000 foreigners with cases pending at SEF have their situation regularised temporarily in Portugal due to the covid-19 pandemic, covered by an order of 30 April that allows them to obtain the user number, access to the Service National Health Service, social support services and the signing of leases and employment contracts, as well as opening bank accounts and contracting essential public services.