Lisbon’s dilapidated townhouses ‘home’ to thousands of immigrants

SEF opens an investigation; wonders if parish councils are “behind”…

A survey conducted by Expresso this week describes three- and four-storey townhouses in Lisbon that can house up to 1,400 immigrant residents.

Immigrants are often not even in Portugal. They paid “facilitators” to help them obtain Portuguese residency. To achieve this, they need an official residence.

Said Expresso, the parish councils of Arroios, Penha de France and Santa Maria Maior in Lisbon are just some of those who “benefit” from the influx of “new residents”. The fact that the numbers simply couldn’t fit in the given addresses seems to have been completely ignored.

SEF (the Aliens and Borders Agency) is now investigating whether parish councils are simply too overworked and unsuspecting to be noticed, or whether there are ‘elements within them’ to take.

There may be eye closureadmits one inspector, because parish councils can make a lot of money issuing residency certificates.

Says Expresso, “A little over two years ago, Arroios issued a statement welcoming the issuance of 10,000 certificates – turnover of €100,000”.

The price of these documents varies. It can be as little as €3-€4, or up to €10 in some areas.

Expresso heard from the parish president of Santa Maria Maior that “people who work in Tavira (in the Algarve) come to us for residence certificates. It is impossible for someone who works in Tavira to return to Lisbon every day…”

The majority of immigrants come from Nepal, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh – and the traffickers selling these addresses are invariably nationals of the same countries, already resident in Portugal, the newspaper specifies.

This is a matter that some parish councils have tried to “bring to the attention” of the Minister of Internal Administration (Jose Luis Carneiro) in vain.

“We’ve been trying to get a meeting with him since April,” Arroios parish council president Madalena Natividade told Expresso.

As often happens in situations like this, once a national newspaper “exposes” non-transparent practices, departments tend to “act”. That may be the case here.

According to Expresso, there are a number of “crimes” going on – even a scheme “linked to the Brexit processwhich SEF uncovered, in which representatives of immigration companies offered clients “mostly residing in the UK, the promise of obtaining a residence certificate for EU citizens which would supposedly help maintain freedom of movement within the Schengen area, even if they have never resided in Portugal. For these services, the companies charged each client between €2,000 and €5,000”.

[email protected]