MIGRATION POLICY IN PORTUGAL: ROLE OF THE HIGH- COMMISSIONER FOR IMMIGRATION AND ETHNIC MINORITIES
PROF. RUI MARQUES
The High Commissioner for Immigration and Ethic Minorities (ACIME) was founded in November 2002 aiming "to promote the integration of immigrants and ethnic minorities within the Portuguese society, assure the participation and collaboration of the representative immigrant associations, social partners and welfare agencies in the specification of policies of social integration and the combat against exclusion, as well as monitoring the obligation of legal instruments preventing and prohibiting discrimination in the exercise of directs for motives based on race, colour, nationality or ethnic origin."
The institution's main lines of action are, first of all, to protect their equal rights and duties by eliminating or decreasing the level of "ethnic or racial discrimination or xenophobia, provide proper information in order for immigrants to become more easily integrated. Additionally, due to Immigrant Observatory studies the immigrants' reality is made known to the general public, so as for public policies in this subject to be better evaluated. What is more is that ACIME promotes the co-operation of associations working with immigrants and increases their involvement on immigration policy (making) in order to achieve easier and more successful integration. As far as effective integration is concerned, family regrouping and Portuguese language acquisition programs have been of great assistance. Finally, ACIME tries to promote tolerance and diversity as values of the Portuguese society and encourages the media (with the Journalism for Tolerance prize) to promote a more multicultural society.
As far as CNAIs (Centros Nacionais de Apoio ao Imigrante) is concerned, it was founded in 2004 in Lisbon and Porto to facilitate the eco-operation between immigrants and Public Administration. What they provided was the gathering (in a specific location) of all the existing different services and offices aiming to fulfil specific needs of the immigrants and the creation of innovatory services that would fill any possible gaps. This has been accomplished by properly managing the existing space, by sharing computerized information and by hiring socio-cultural mediators (i.e. people who speak the immigrants' language and often come from the same country of origin, which allows them to welcome immigrants and better understand their problems. "In short, the CNAIs have been designed and managed from the perspective of providing a quality service the immigrant, within a friendly environment and operating from a platform where the immigrant is the centre of all activity. With the ever-present challenge to make further improvements, Portugal is thus making steps towards providing a politics of immigration with a human face."
The institution offers ten services divided in two parts, one part comprises the support offices, or National immigrant support network, and the other comprises information offices, or National immigrant information network, but they walk side by side towards the same goal, the immigrants' integration.
In order to accomplish their goal, ACIME has created support points at three levels: local, regional and international. These support points are centres and offices created to provide the immigrants a legal support to defend their rights and answer to their questions. ACIME, also, give information to the immigrants who intend to rejoin their families and a support in what regards the recognition of their qualifications. We can, still, say that it is a technical support to organize, execute and evaluate their initiatives.
In May 2003 the Saint John of God Institute has created a Reception Centre, because of the situations of vulnerability and exclusion of homeless immigrants. With the collaboration of others supports, like ACIME, this temporary reception centre accompanies the social reintegration of the immigrants and the voluntary return to their original country.
In Portugal 37 centres called CLAI have been created to offer a local immigrant support. CLAI are small multimedia offices located within an Institution which supports immigrants at a local level. Its aim is to give free information about the problem of integration through Internet, some brochures, etc.
The National immigrant information network gives information to the Portuguese society and to the immigrants' communities for their integration through the functioning of four projects. ACIME makes a monthly information bulletin with themes about the integration of the immigrants and the ethnic minorities. One could find news, information, good practice, interviews, opinions and stories. It also offers a telephone service (SOS Immigrant Line) operated by socio-cultural mediators (able to communicate in Portuguese, Creole and Russian) for immigrants and institutions working on this area. A service is given for finding information about ACIME's projects, news, events and legislation in Internet too. Immigrants can also make some suggestions, put questions and participate in discussions. The last project is the television programme "NÓS" ("WE") dedicated to the theme of immigration, where some interviews and debates about contemporary themes, like rights and duties of immigrants often come up.