Portugal grants migrants residency rights to curb pandemic

Medical workers disinfect a train station along the Spain-Portuguese border earlier this month. (AP pic)

LISBON: Undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers in Portugal have been granted the same rights as residents, including access to medical care, during a state of emergency to curb the spread of coronavirus.

“This is not an automatic regularisation,” the border control agency Sef told AFP on Monday, indicating that immigration processing should resume at the beginning of July.

The border police did not say how many people were affected by the measure, which came into force on Friday to allow migrants to access public services and social aid provided by the state.

Portugal’s decision was welcomed on Monday by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic.

“(It is) a good practice to protect vulnerable people and society in response to the pandemic,” Mijatovic wrote on her Twitter account.

“In times of crisis, it is a duty for a secure society to ensure that migrants have access to health, stable employment and housing,” Portuguese Interior Minister Eduardo Cabrita told local newspaper Publico.

The state of emergency, declared on March 18, is expected to be extended on Wednesday for two more weeks.

According to an official figures on Monday, Portugal has suffered 140 deaths caused by the new coronavirus out of 6,400 officially reported cases.