Contributing factors include unemployment, difficulties in accessing labour market and housing
Requests for support for the voluntary return of migrants from Portugal broke records in 2022, with 1,051 asking to go home, mostly Brazilians.
Vasco Malta, head of the mission of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) tells Lusa: “For Brazil, there were 913 requests, which is also a fairly significant record, and 350 (have already) returned.”
East Timor nationals make up another chunk of migrants who reached the sad conclusion that Portugal doesn’t offer what they had imagined, or potentially been lead to believe.
There is a set of factors behind these voluntary returns, explains Malta – namely unemployment, difficulties in accessing the labour market, difficulties in finding any type of housing (the hot topic of the moment) and in regularising the residence card – a tortuous process due to bureaucratic ails of soon-to-be-extinct foreigners and borders agency SEF.
According to the IOM leader, it is not only the number of requests for voluntary return that have increased but cases of people in situations of extreme vulnerability, living on the streets and/ or victims of domestic violence.
“We are talking about a very significant number of people who reached us in 2022, at the end of the line: situations of homelessness, domestic violence, human trafficking…” They constituted “an abnormal number of situations of extreme vulnerability, which have always happened over the years, but never in such high numbers”, he explains.
Although there are no statistics on nationalities in these cases, Malta estimates Brazilians occupied almost 90% of people in “extreme vulnerability”.
With regard to human trafficking, 2022 saw 13 victims referred to IOM. This may not sound many, but it is “still a very substantial number”, Malta affirms.
Based on IOM’s figures, immigrants who asked to go back home last year involved more than 30% in their first year in Portugal, 37% in their second year, and more than 30% after more than two years as an immigrant in this country.
What this means for Vasco Malta is that “clearly” there is “a decision to migrate to Portugal that is not informed, is not prepared and, if it is not prepared in detail by people, it immediately leads to greater vulnerability”.
About the reason for migrations not being well prepared, besides other factors, Malta suggests that social media networks and Youtube videos “build an image about Portugal that is not an image that corresponds to reality“.
For this reason, he advises anyone thinking of emigrating “to find out the average salary in Portugal, whether they can find work in the areas where they want to work, the average costs of living in those cities: of housing, food and energy prices”.
As for the growth in the number of applications from East Timor nationals, Malta believes many came here seeing Portugal as a “transit point” to reach the United Kingdom as their final destination. But with ‘Brexit’, the process of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, “the difficulties of entering Britain have increased”.
In addition, East Timor nationals have a depressed socio-economic homeland, redolent with companies taking advantage of this to paint an overly rosy picture of prospects in Portugal, for a handsome fee… All of this caused an explosion of Timorese migration, most of it ending up on the streets.
IOM’s ARVoRe (Support for Voluntary Return and Reintegration) programme is co-funded by the Portuguese government through the Immigration and Borders Service and the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund.
Source material: LUSA