Lisbon (Fides Service) - As part events to mark the international Week for Refugees, 15-22 June and World Refugee Day 20 June 2003, the Jesuit Refugee Service JRS in Portugal organised a day of study for immigrants and refugees on 18 June held at St Ignatius retreat house at Colares. The fifty participants included immigrants and refugees, JRS workers and representatives of several organisations involved in assisting immigrants in Portugal.
According to the Jesuit Refugee Service, a new immigration law in Portugal has made the situation of immigrants in the country more difficult. Law number 34/2003 obliges all immigrants to obtain a visa in their country of origin, and this is an obstacle to legalising their presence in Portugal. JRS says the law is immoral because it obliges thousands of refugees to remain in illegal and clandestine situations in which illegal labour and organised crime thrive. JRS Director in Portugal, Fr Rosario Farmhouse, says “To leave refugees in situations of illegality hinders our work and service because it fosters the growth of situation of dependence (food, accommodation, clothing) rather than professional insertion. Moreover for many immigrants, to return to their country to legalise their situation would mean never to return to Portugal”.
Catholic organisations in Portugal involved in assisting immigrants and refugees intend to write to the Prime Minister to express their frustration and disapproval over Law number 34/2003, “which has made public the State’s indifference to the plight of many citizens in Portugal and whom the authorities have the duty to help and protect”.
The Organisations intend to ask the Prime Minister to ensure that Portugal’s immigration laws take into consideration the fact that there are millions of illegal immigrant workers in the country and that the government and public administration “have the moral obligation to find a solution which respects their rights, their families and their human dignity”. MR (Fides Service 18/6/2003 EM lines 32 Words: 352)