To prevent a spread of coronavirus, a worker disinfects a street in the Portuguese city of Cascais on March 28, 2020 | Photo: Reuters/Rafael Marchante
To prevent a spread of coronavirus, a worker disinfects a street in the Portuguese city of Cascais on March 28, 2020 | Photo: Reuters/Rafael Marchante

The Portuguese government has said that all migrants and asylum seekers currently living in the country are to be treated as permanent residents during the Covid-19 pandemic. To access health care, welfare benefits, banks and other services, they only need an ongoing residency request.

Starting today, all foreigners in Portugal with pending applications will be treated as permanent residents until at least July 1, Portugese authorities announced on Saturday. The measure is to ensure that migrants and asylum seekers have access to public services during the coronavirus pandemic.

To qualify for the country’s national health service, welfare benefits, bank accounts as well as work and rental contracts, applicants from now on only need to provide evidence of an ongoing residency request.

"People should not be deprived of their rights to health and public service just because their application has not yet been processed," Claudia Veloso, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Internal Affairs, told new agency Reuters. "In these exceptional times, the rights of migrants must be guaranteed."

Reducing risk of infection

According to the authorities, the measure also aims to reduce contagion risk by minimizing contact between border control service staff and applicants.

According to the Johns Hopkins University, Portugal has reported close to 6,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and some 120 deaths. That’s far below neighboring Spain, where more than 80,000 people are infected and close to 7,000 have died.

It's not known how many people had ongoing residency applications, but government statistics show that a record 580,000 immigrants resided in Portugal in 2019, with 135,000 people having been granted residency last year.

Official data shows that Brazilians make up the majority of immigrants living in Portugal, followed by Romanians, Ukrainians, Britons and Chinese.

This article is mainly based on material from Reuters

 

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