The NGO network European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) reports that the Portuguese foreigners and borders service (SEF) continues to detain groups of migrants with special needs, especially families with children and unaccompanied migrants, in the Temporary Installation Centre (CIT) of Lisbon Airport.
'Deprivation of liberty'
An order by the Ministry of Internal Administration in July 2018 determines that children below the age of 16 cannot be detained for periods exceeding one week. However, ECRE notes, the policy of automatic detention even for short periods remains contrary to Portugal's international and constitutional obligations such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, according to UNICEF and IOM.
The Portuguese Ombudsman had also addressed this question in a 2017 report. Although the SEF refers to individuals as being "retained" at the airport, their situation amounts to deprivation of liberty since they cannot exit the CIT and their phones and belongings are confiscated, ECRE stressed.
Priority should be given to building Almoçageme center
In addition to a time limit for the holding of children, the order of the Ministry of Internal Administration provides for: an internal review of the CIT to be conducted by the Ministry's General Inspection; an emergency report from the SEF regarding the state of implementation of recommendations issued by the Ombudsman in 2017; and maximum priority to be awarded to the construction of the new Temporary Reception Centre of Almoçageme (CATA), located in the municipality of Sintra, which will include an adapted and functional area for families and a specific area for children.
According to figures provided by the Portuguese Refugee Council, three children had been detained at the border for periods ranging from 10 to 18 days in the first half of 2018. Last year, 17 unaccompanied children and 40 families were detained at the border, for an average period of 2 and 4 weeks respectively, ECRE said.