People of different backgrounds have “a clear disadvantage”

in News · 04-07-2020 12:00:00 · 5 Comments

The debate on racism in Portugal has been “polarised”, and should be based on the available indicators, which demonstrate that people of different origin have “a clear disadvantage”, recommends the high commissioner for Migration.

In an interview with Lusa, Sónia Pereira does not directly answer the question of whether or not Portugal is a structurally racist country. She prefers to leave a suggestion: the analysis of the indicators that make it possible to understand what ethnic and culturally different people are doing in Portuguese society - “what opportunities do they have, where are they in the labour market, in education?”

"There is a clear disadvantage, which is structural", she acknowledges, pointing out that there have been "advances" and that the second and third generations, descendants of immigrants, have reached higher levels compared to their predecessors.

"But there are still barriers that are linked to a particular belonging or national origin", she points out, clarifying that these obstacles "continue to disproportionately affect people who have a different origin".

For this reason, Sónia Pereira suggests to anyone who wants to look at racism "in a serious way" that it is not "alone" by the speech and check the existing data. And what do these indicators tell us? They point to an “overrepresentation” of people of certain origins or ethnicities “in certain professional and occupational sectors, in more precarious housing areas, greater school dropout or school failure, less ability to access higher education”, she enumerates.

"We shouldn't be shy about talking about racism," says the high commissioner, agreeing that there has not been a healthy debate. “When one extreme, the other extreme… This does not create bridges, which, in essence, is what we want, a society that can, through dialogue (…), find bridges of common understanding that will allow us to move forward in order to reduce racism , discrimination”, she defends.

More complex is the answer to the question of who can enter this debate and whether anyone will be left out for what they stand for.

“We must develop a strategy that allows us to reach a comprehensive result, so that those who may feel excluded gain political space outside of what the dialogue intended for society is,” she begins by saying.

On the other hand, Portugal is “a rule of law, guided by principles and values, constitutionally protected, in which there are crimes that must be considered as such”.

Regardless of how difficult it is to draw this frontier, fighting racism “is everyone's commitment” and not just the State's. “The debate is for everyone. What public services can do, right now (...), is to reflect, in their own services, on how they are or are not creating conditions for equal access”, she points out, stressing that the debate on the racism goes through workplaces, areas of residence, cultural environments.

"The demonstrations are important to give visibility to situations that are happening, but [the issue of racism] is not limited to the demonstration, it is important that the demonstration gives way to other spaces for debate, pressure, dialogue, involvement" , suggests.

Sónia Pereira “sadly” received the results of the last European Social Survey, which revealed that almost two thirds of Portuguese people reveal some form of racism. “We must be concerned”, she acknowledges.

“Perceptions also have their impact”, she says, pointing out that there is not necessarily a “direct link” between perception and practice, which explains phrases like “I even have African friends” or “my gypsy friend is different from others".

Recently, the SOS Racismo association warned of the “inoperability” of the Commission for Equality and Against Racial Discrimination (CICDR), which is chaired by the High Commissioner for Migration, even though her authority has been transferred to the Secretary of State for Citizenship and Equality.

“CICDR is not stopped, it is always in operation, it is not suspended”, she guaranteed, referring that there is a technical team working “constantly and regularly in the processing of complaints and denunciations” and that “it has not been stopped, much for contrary".

However, the context of the pandemic forced the interruption of the training and awareness actions, as well as the extended meetings, involving multiple actors, which will be resumed “soon”, she assures. We had to give an emergency response to a completely new reality”, she explains.


I come from a mixed race home both Portuguese and Angolan and I can't even count how many times I've encountered racism in Portugal. In my experience Portugal does have systematic and institutional racism it come in many forms:
- Racist slurs based on the color of my skin
- Service workers telling you in your face that "my people are troublemakers"
- Portuguese amongst each other bad talking minorities including Gypsies, Africans, Brazilians and many northern Europeans.

Like Joao from Algarve mentioned here many expats live in their expat bubbles and don't know anything about the real Portugal both the bad and the good. For me denial of racism is even worse than the act of racism.

By Helio from Beiras on 06-07-2020 06:41

I took admission in university and gone to immigration office for student card. And the lady who was almost 55 years, I felt that she don't like outsider. And she rejected to gave me student resident card. And there was nothing wrong in my documents. They put objection that they visited my home address and I was not there. But I never left my home address since one year. Am living in the same place. I consulted with lawyer and he said they just don't want to give you permission.... And they just made one reason for this.

By Abcd from Lisbon on 06-07-2020 11:07

Racism in Portugal exists at all levels. It is systemic and ugly. The constant denial of its existence is sad, ignorant and hinders change. The British expats live in an expat bubble, ignorant to what the locals really think of them, better to ask a local from Cabo Verde or Senegal and you might get a real response.

By Joao from Algarve on 05-07-2020 04:48

So vulnerable people who work hard and dutiful to survive, will no longer be allowed protection to maintain a tolerable existence if they have a light shade of skin color? Be careful about the message being sent here, because this raving about supposed racism and inequality has been mostly used to excuse criminality and deny justice to victims of criminality. True inequality is not inequality of outcome. True inequality is when skin color, not behavior, determines outcome.

By Kari Lehto from Other on 04-07-2020 05:48

This is such a ridiculous argument! There is racism everywhere. Not just white against black but black against white, black against black, etc. Look at the problems in South Africa where black South Africans are attacking and killing other black Africans from other African nations! If anyone has lived in Africa will understand the level of racism of blacks against blacks.

By Anna from Madeira on 04-07-2020 01:57
Interactive Topics, send us your comments/opinion on this article.

Please note that The Portugal News may use selected comments in the printed edition of the newspaper.