And those migrants already in Portugal, have told national radio Antena 1 that they wish they hadn’t come.
According to a report in the French daily Le Monde on 11 August 2017, even French citizens have noticed the absence of migrants in the small country on the Iberian peninsula.
Under the cover of anonymity, they offered their reasons for moving to Portugal: “Islam is being imposed on us. In France, it’s the state of emergency. Here, we have peace. Just peace. You have the impression of living in the France of the 1960s or 1970s with different values. In Lisbon, even at 2 o’clock at night, you don’t feel in danger. It’s the supreme luxury. I am a citizen of the world, but there… As soon as you start a debate about veiled women, the Belphégor [Belphégor refers to a mythical demonic figure, but has become a French slang term for burka-wearing women – FWM]… they stick a label on you. You can’t say anything any more. Here, you’re not judged. That’s the reason we left France.”
Marie-Claude adds: “The market in Carpentras, which used to be an artisan’s market, has become a souk [Arab market].” And they think they understand that if there are no Arabs, or very few, in Portugal, it’s “because there are no welfare benefits”.
Luís Gouveia, the national deputy director of borders and immigration service SEF, has told Diário de Notícias that Portugal may be ready to receive 4 754 refugees (as part of EU quotas) but is unlikely to see more than 50 arrive, and even that number is not certain.
The problem, he explained, is not simply bureaucratic. People are actively refusing to come to his country, even though Portugal’s unemployment rate is lower than that of other southern European countries, including Greece, Spain, and Italy.
“The crushing majority of asylum seekers coming into Europe want to get to Germany and Sweden where they have family, or where they know they can find work and have a good lifestyle. Preferences are always for northern countries,” said Gouveia. “The Iberian Peninsula is unknown.”
He added that when 40 asylum seekers was offered refuge in Spain, only 12 agreed to it. The few immigrants Portugal does receive, come primarily from Portuguese-speaking countries like Brazil.
RTP’s Antena 1 radio station interviewed several “refugees” living in Portugal, saying they warn fleeing migrants to “choose another country”.
Ali, Ayad and Mubarak told “three stories of disillusion”, stressing they had been “abandoned” by the authorities in Portugal and treated without dignity.“Minimum support” is how Ayad explained the lack of state benefits in Portugal.
Ayad said he wanted to get out of Portugal as soon as possible and warned any incoming migrants that they should choose “France or Germany, where the life is good. But here, crisis, crisis, crisis. Let these people choose another place. It is better for them”.
Mubarak, from Somalia, told reporters that “three weeks ago three families left the country with children for Germany. Why? Because of everything they had been through here”.
Negative chain-letters were also doing the rounds on Portuguese social media, questioning the wisdom of inviting migrants “who may be jihadists in disguise”.
Human rights groups complain that they get almost zero response from Portuguese authorities, including the Portuguese Council for Refugees and the Red Cross.
“As far as I know, not one of our offers of help or accommodation has been acted upon,” said Toin Adams, from the Bem-Vindos Refugiados Algarve initiative.
A letter from an unemployed German couple living in the Beira Baixa offered a “stone house which is pretty much empty” to migrants. “We are on welfare,” wrote Jan Feliz Krutsch. “So we don’t have much money but we have room which we would like to share, especially with families with kids.”
Bem-Vindos Refugiados has circulated the letter, and continues to keep a database of people offering help and support, despite the fact that no migrants appear to want to make use of it.